Saluting Champions

THE OHIO Valley Athletic Conference is honoring its best tonight.

The nation’s largest functioning athletic conference drops the curtain on its 69th year of operation when it stages the annal OVAC Banquet of Champions at Wheeling’s WesBanco Arena. Tonight’s affair is the cadillac of prep fetes.

Teams claiming conference titles this past academic year will be recognized, receiving championship pennants to be displayed in their respective schools. More than 60 teams in all will be honored tonight for capturing coveted conference crowns.

Along those athletic lines, five coaches have been singled out as finalists for the prestigious Bill Van Horne/Wheeling News-Register Coach of The Year Award. The final five includes wrestling coaches Paul Jackson (Parkersburg South) and Mike Blackburn (Steubenville), basketball coaches Kim Clifford (St. Clairsville) and Dan Liedtke (Fort Frye) as well as Wheeling Central football coach Mike Young.

The winner will be announced as one of tonight’s highlights, an award of major significance as the conference boasts more than 600 head coaches.

But the OVAC Banquet of Champions is more than just athletic recognition. Far from it.

More than $27,000 in scholarships, encompassing some three dozen awards, will be handed out tonight.

That is a most noteworthy and generous statement from individuals and companies who believe in the conference. It’s a refreshing investment in the future of our student-athletes.

While tonight’s banquet plays out seamlessly in a few hours, it is a happening which takes countless amounts of time to put together. That is the thankless task of Ron White, one that he does with great expertise.

Athletes and coaches will gain much of tonight’s limelight, but what should not be overlooked is the selfless actions of scholarship donors, OVAC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Tom Rataiczak, the conference’s executive board and White.

It all adds up to a championship night for a conference well stocked with champions.