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Jackson Newspapers - Ripley, WV
  • COLUMN: Phil for the Game

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  •        As we come down to the end of the school year and another group of seniors move on to college, I am left with a bit of sadness. While I strive to keep a "professional distance" from the athletes I cover, I always find myself getting to know the student athletes and their parents. I recall the fond memories I have of capturing a special moment for them with a camera or having the honor of describing their athletic exploits in print.
    Word is that Ali Cunningham will be joining the Cross Country team at West Virginia Wesleyan. What an absolute steal for that program. I believe Ali will be the first female United States President. You heard it here first folks…
    Recently, Jacob Haynes signed with the Alderson Broaddus golf program. Haynes starred in basketball, tennis and golf at Ripley. I will miss capturing photos of Haynes' 3-point bombs on the basketball court. He was always a pleasant interview.
    Greg Medina has signed with the Alderson Broaddus wrestling program. The start-up program is in its first year and is coached by former Viking 3-time State Champion Mitch Smith, the brother of current Viking Coach Matt Smith. Greg is a very nice young man and a smooth practical joker (I still owe him one).
    Daryl Hicks is still undecided, but with interest from next level coaches in both wrestling and football, Hicks has a plethora of options. Daryl is a quality person, his father Dwayne must be very proud of the young man his son has become.
    Nate Starkey will be wrestling at Wheeling Jesuit University this fall. Starkey became one of my favorite young athletes over the last two years. I will miss watching him attack from his patented "cat-like stance" on the mats. The Wheeling West Virginia based school will kick off its first season on the mats in 2013. First year coach Sean Doyle had wonderful things to say about Starkey in a phone conversation earlier this week.
    "Nate has tremendous physical gifts. I think that what makes him truly special is his upbringing that helps to define his character and his drive to succeed. He is an exceptional student and all of these things make him desirable as a student-athlete at Wheeling Jesuit University."
    I will write more about other Ripley athletes going to the next level in a future column…
    While I don't get a chance to cover Ravenswood High sports very often, I did enjoy writing about first year baseball skipper Wes Swain's baseball team. With 12 wins so far this season, you can't help but marvel at the improvement over the two win season from a year ago. Swain is always finding ways to promote his kids much like Ripley baseball coach Shane Casto. I appreciate and respect that in both young coaches.
    Page 2 of 2 - My beloved Sherman Tide rolls into Ravenswood on Saturday for a double-header with the Red Devil baseball team. I look forward to covering Jeremiah Pettry's team as his father Aaron coached me from 1987-89. The son took over the program from the father, which is a nice story in itself. Jeremiah was an enthusiastic bat-boy in my playing days. He was also a stand-out Tide slugger from 1998-'01. His brother Matthew serves as an assistant coach. The years have simply escaped me…
    John Hunter is the Tide's shining star on a team forced to play a lot of freshman and sophomores. The junior infielder/pitcher has been putting up video game numbers (.540 BA) for the Tide and garnering tremendous attention.
    "I have been following Hunter this season and from what I have been told by other coaches, he is the real deal," said Red Devil coach Wes Swain.
    The Ripley softball team is racing into sectionals with only a double header on Saturday versus Parkersburg South left on their schedule. A recent upset of No. 2 hurricane has given the Lady Vikings a real boost. Chelsey Hager has stepped up in a huge way for Coach Ken Swisher. The junior has been nearly unhittable in recent games.
    The 22nd Ripley football coach will be introduced on May 2. Sources tell me that there were only five applicants for the position before the deadline of last Tuesday. True or not, it appears that there wasn't as much interest in the position that many felt there would be. We all know that at least three of those that applied were current assistant coaches.
    It makes one ponder why there is so little interest in a job that boasts a fine facility, supportive community and a principal (Will Hosaflook) who is a first class administrator and has spent time as an assistant football coach which allows him to understand the needs of the program and its on field leader. Until we meet again….

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