By Paul Adkins Sports Editor
December 29, 2013
The year 2013 will be remembered as the “Year of the Female Athlete” in Logan County.
While many of Logan County’s boys’ programs and boys’ high school athletes had fine seasons and enjoyed success during the 2013 calendar year it was the area’s girls’ programs and female athletes who really raised the the bar high.
There was a state championship brought home to the county when the Logan High School cheerleaders won the Class AAA state crown in early December.
The LHS girls’ basketball team made a big state tournament run as the Lady Cats surprised many by reaching the 3A state finals.
Other girls’ teams, such as the Man cheerleaders and the Man girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball teams, were also statebound in 2013.
It was also a big year for Chapmanville/Harts product Andi Williamson as she led the Marshall University softball team to the NCAA Tournament and Conference USA title last May and later played professionally.
On the boys’ side, the Logan and Man football teams were most successful as both squads made it to the playoffs in 2013.
So before we say goodbye to ‘13 and raise our glasses to 2014, let’s look back one more time to the top five local sports stories in Logan County this year:
1. Logan High School cheerleaders win the state championship/Man second. Southern West Virginia is known for its top-notch high school cheerleading squads.
The Logan and Man high school cheerleaders certainly kept that tradition going in early December in the state cheer competition at the Charleston Civic Center.
Logan easily won the Class AAA state championship by topping Spring Valley by 26 points. It was the second state cheer title for LHS and coach Michelle Akers, who also led Logan to a state crown in 2009.
Logan was the 2012 state runner-up.
“It’s a great feeling. We’re in shock. We’re just so excited,” Akers said of winning the state title. “The routine was flawless. It’s the best that they have ever performed it. It’s always nice to win. Our biggest competitor has always been Brooke High School. They have beaten us so many times. To finish out on top of everyone is such a wonderful feeling.”
The Man cheerleaders were very close, taking second place in the Class A competition. Man was only three points behind eventual winner Clay-Battelle.
“The team practices six days a week and countless hours in hopes of winning the state title this year,” Man coach Michelle Grimmett said. “They began this journey back in August and they worked tirelessly in hopes of winning it all. I’ve never seen a team with this much talent and dedication. We were so close and the eight seniors who will never have another chance were definitely heart-broken.”
Grimmett said Man will take the state runner-up trophy.
“We lost to Clay-Battelle, a team that has won 10 state titles and also performed very well on Friday,” she said. “Although we didn’t win the crown as we set out to do, we did win the West Virginia State runner-up trophy. I am very proud of that accomplishment. Man has never placed at the state level until now. Next year we will be rebuilding the team, but we hope to be right back at states in 2014 with a winning team and another chance at winning the state title.”
On the youth level, the Logan-based Cheeriffic All-Star cheerleaders claimed two overall national championships in 2013. The Cheeriffic Mini 1 team was first in the United States out of 84 teams. The Cheeriffic Youth Level 1 squad took first in the country out of 88 teams.
The Cheeriffic Youth Level team was also crowned champion at the UCA Internationals in Orlando, Fla.
2. Logan girls’ basketball team reaches state finals. It was a heck of a run for the Logan High School girls’ basketball team in 2013 as the Lady Cats reached the Class AAA state championship game before falling 58-34 to Parkersburg South at the Charleston Civic Center before a statewide TV audience.
Logan, after advancing to state after beating St. Albans in the regional title game, beat Princeton and Spring Valley to make it to the finals.
The Lady Cats were led all season by sophomore point guard Shayna Gore and 6-2 freshman center Monica Mitchell. Both were named all-state at season’s end, Gore to the first team.
Logan (17-10) became the first ever girls’ basketball team in Logan County history to reach the state championship game.
Gore netted 36 points in the win over Princeton. Mitchell had a double-double with 18 points and 17 boards.
Then, in an iconic moment in Logan sports history, Gore passed to senior Hannah Tothe for the game-winning 3-point shot in the Spring Valley game at state.
Logan coach Kevin Gertz has turned around Logan’s once dormat girls’ basketball program into one of the state’s best in a few short years.
“I wouldn’t trade my kids for any team in the state,” Gertz said in the post-game press conference after the state title game. “They played very hard but were tight the entire game. But I’m so proud of them because they played hard until the very end. I know they are upset and I know that they are crying but I want them to go into the locker room and look at the big trophy that we are taking back and to look at what they have achieved. I’ve said it all week, but we were 144th in the state in the Power Index three years ago. Now, we’re number two. Nobody will ever be able to take that away from them. I am so proud of these girls.”
3. Man and Logan football reach the playoffs and LHS football coach Gary Mullins resigns. Both the Logan and Man high school football teams were playoff-bound in 2013.
Both were upended in the first round.
Man closed out 9-2 and lost 21-16 at home to Bishop Donahue in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. It was still a huge turnaround for the Hillbillies and coach Harvey Arms. The last three years, Man had endured losing seasons.
“We played hard and didn’t quit,” Man coach Harvey Arms said after the game. “Sure it’s going to hurt but we got to deal with hurt. We just didn’t make the play when we needed to. We played hard and we played well but not good enough.”
Logan also advanced to the post-season but fell short on the road, 41-14, at Point Pleasant to close out at 7-4.
It was the final game at the Wildcat helm for Logan 10th-year coach Gary Mullins, who had indicated the 2013 season would be his last at LHS.
Mullins, a well-liked coach and a good family man, puts down the headsets after leading the Logan football team to five out of its six all-time playoff appearances and a 50-55 record.
“Logan football will definitely go on and will be great in the future. I’m so proud of what we have been able to do here,” Mullins said.
Senior running back Bryden “Worm” Street led Logan on the season with 167 rushes for 1,444 yards and 14 touchdowns.
4. Man softball, Man volleyball, Man girls’ basketball teams play in the state tourney. It was also a statebound season for the Man High School girls’ basketball, volleyball and softball teams in 2013.
The Man basketball team had the unenviable task of taking on No. 1-ranked and four-time defending state champion Huntington St. Joe at state as the Lady Billies lost 89-29.
Man was led by all-time leading scorer Summer Sword.
Sword also helped lead the Man softball team to the Class A state tourney, along with fellow all-state player and pitcher Taylor Tomblin.
The Billies were beaten twice in Vienna to get ousted.
Man basketball is coached by Tonia Ward. Randy Epperly leads the softball team.
On the volleyball courts, it was a state tourney season for Coach Orlando Washington and the Lady Billies.
Man made history, becoming the first-ever team from Logan County to play in the state tournament in volleyball.
The Lady Billies won 24 matches this season but fell in an opening round contest in the state tourney at the Charleston Civic Center.
“These girls started in June during the three-week period and during that time I believed that this group could be better than last year’s,” Coach Washington said. “Then two weeks before the season started I began strength and conditioning training to get them ready for the season. Every single girl showed up almost every day which told me this team might be different because these girls decided to make a commitment. As you know its hard for kids to understand that the preseason is just as important as the regular season. The attendance in the off-season and work put in has something to do with the success we have had this year along with a change in attitudes which is good to see.”
5. Andi Williamson’s pitching. It was a big year for Andi Williamson in 2013.
First, the Chapmanville Regional High School graduate and Harts native led the Marshall University softball team to the NCAA Tournament for the very first time.
Williamson, the nation’s leader in strikeouts, pitched the Herd to a win over Notre Dame in the NCAA regional tourney in Lexington, Ky. Marshall was ousted with heartbreaking losses to host Kentucky and Virginia Tech.
At season’s end, Williamson signed on to play professionally with the Chicago Bandits of the National Professional Fastpitch league.
Williamson pitched very well as a pro, leading the Bandits to the championship series.
This year for the Bandits, Williamson had a 9-2 record during the regular season with a 1.67 ERA — one of the best in the league.
Chicago was 36-12 last year.
At Marshall, Williamson was a record-breaking pitcher. She led Conference USA in number of wins in 2011 and set a Marshall record of 33 wins with 364 strikeouts during her senior year. She closed out her three-year career at Marshall with 731 strikeouts and helped lead the Herd to the Conference USA title in 2013.
In December, it was learned Williamson had signed a professional softball contract with a team in Japan. She is expected to report to her new team in February 2014.
At the end of the Japanese league season, Williamson is expected to rejoin the Chicago Bandits squad in June. The NPF has a three-month season which runs June through August.
Bandit teammates Monica Abbott and Megan Williams have also signed with the Japanese league.