May 20, 2012
The Ohio Valley is no different than other parts of the country when it comes to sports being a major part of the area’s culture. While we’ve only got one minor league team in our immediate area, the Ohio Valley relishes its high school sports. Football Friday nights in the Ohio Valley are things you’d have to be here to understand. Each community rallies behind its team all 10 weeks just hoping that it’s one of the fortunate ones to get into the postseason. Basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball and even track and field are other popular high school sports, which bring out fans. There’s just a sense of pride in the Ohio Valley about rooting for the school in your town since many of the folks here have grown up here and attended these schools. Along those same lines, they continue to buy into the budding rivalries each school owns. Yes, high school sports dominates the athletic culture, but in the area we reside, we’re just a short drive from major metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, all of which are home to professional teams. While high school football consumes Friday night and many Saturdays, area fans get their college fix with the Ohio State Buckeyes, West Virginia Mountaineers, Pittsburgh Panthers and some even prefer to trek to Athens to watch the Bobcats. The West?Liberty University Hilltoppers made an impressive run a few years back and have started to fill the stands at Russek Field for their home games. Nearby, the Bethany College Bison also have a loyal following. Then there is the running, gunning West Liberty men’s basketball team that has reached the Division II Elite Eight for two years in a row, including a Final Four appearance in 2010. The?‘Toppers have become the main collegiate sporting draw in town as the women’s team, which usually plays the early game before the men, have been a quality program for decades under the direction of longtime coach Lynn Ullom. The basketball teams at Ohio University Eastern have been successful and draw a crowd. The Panthers’ rosters are lined with local athletes. The same can be said for the Wheeling Jesuit and Bethany men’s and women’s teams. On Sunday’s it’s the National Football League and a short drive to Steeler games and Browns games is in the plans for many each weekend. Those sports fans actually wanting to play sports can do many right here in the Ohio Valley. The area is home to several top-notch golf courses. The golfing community in the Ohio Valley is strong with a bevy of top-notch courses as well as the Ohio Valley Golf Association’s annual summer tournaments. The Robert Trent Jones course and Arnold Palmer course at Oglebay Park are the crown jewels, but there are numerous quality courses to be found up and down the Ohio River. Miniature golf is also a popular destination during the summer months in the Ohio Valley with several challenging courses such as All Fore Fun. The closure of Elm Grove Lanes hasn’t put a damper on the spirits of the local bowling community. The Rose Bowl in Wheeling, St. Clair Lanes in St. Clairsville, Holiday Lanes in Steubenville and other area establishments are packed throughout the week with full-to-capacity league nights and other tournaments. Baseball is also a popular sport in the area. Not only are the Pittsburgh Pirates just a little more than an hour’s drive away, but future big-leaguers all over the area can be found playing on area diamonds all summer long. In Washington, Pa. the Washington Wild Things compete in the Frontier League. During the winter and spring months, the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL compete at WesBanco Arena. The franchise, which originally came to Wheeling from Winston-Salem and was dubbed the Wheeling Thunderbirds, has been around since the early 1990s. One of the nation’s premier youth baseball tournaments is held up and down the Ohio Valley during the first weekend in July. The annual Beast of the East Baseball Tournament brings in teams from all over the nation to compete. There are also countless softball tournaments for girls throughout the summer. The valley is also home to numerous distance running events, the pinnacle of which is the Ogden Newspapers Half-Marathon. Other notable races include: the Debbie Green 5K Run/Walk, the Race for a Reason; Sam Mumley Memorial Classic, Barton 5K and the Betty Zane Days 5K, to name a few. For winter sports, those who love to hit the slopes always flock to Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Pennsylvania, which boasts an endless amount of fun activities.