2012 was yet another roller coaster ride for local WVIAC and High School sports in North Central West Virginia.
We saw conference realignment affect local college programs, while other local high school teams embraced the underdog role and advanced in state tournaments.
The emergence of the Mountain East Conference forced the WVIAC to self-destruct. Local programs such as West Virginia Wesleyan, Fairmont State and Glenville State agreed to join the Mountain East, while other local programs were forced to look elsewhere. Davis and Elkins, Alderson-Broaddus and Salem International then made the jump to the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC).
West Virginia Wesleyan, Fairmont State and Alderson-Broaddus all introduced new coaches. Of the headliners, Wesleyan hired former WVU Mountaineer and son of John Beilein, Patrick Beilein as the new head coach of the men's basketball program. Fairmont State welcomed former WVU assistant Jerrod Calhoun into its family as the newest head basketball coach as well.
Wesleyan and Fairmont State also mad splashes on the football side of things. The Bobcats hired former Robert C. Byrd standout and Mountaineer George Shehl as the new head football coach. The Falcons brought in Mannington native Jason Woodman for the same position.
Alderson-Broaddus announced the addition of several new sports, naming new coaches for each of them, such as football and lacrosse, among others. The Battler baseball team also advanced to the WVIAC Tournament Championship game under first year head coach Luke Harrigan.
The Wesleyan men's basketball team advanced to the second round of the Division II NCAA Tournament in March, the furthest the program has gone in its existence.
The Lady Bobcat softball team advanced to the Division II NCAA Super Regionals behind the superb pitching of Hillary Perez-Ashley, the WVIAC Pitcher of the Year. Head Coach Steve Warner was also named the WVIAC Coach of the year.
The Wesleyan women's basketball team knocked off Glenville State in the WVIAC Tournament Championship game in March, earning a spot in the Division II NCAA Tournament as well. The combination of seniors Lydia Bridenbaugh and Jamie Kaufmann made the difference the entire season.
The Glenville State football team had a chance to win the WVIAC Regular Season Championship towards the end of the season outright with a win at Shepherd. But the Pioneers sputtered at the end, falling to a Top 25-worthy Rams squad late in the game.
Glenville State and Alderson-Broaddus began construction on new athletic facilities. Glenville is in the process of a nearly $25 million facility, named as the Waco Center, which will house the Pioneer men's and women's basketball teams, as well as the women's volleyball team. Glenville State expects the project to be finished in December of 2013. A-B started construction on a new football field, called the Performance Stadium. The facility is set for completion during the summer of 2013, just in time for the Battler football season.
In high school sports, several football players kicked off the year in style with National Signing Day. Among the headliners, Bridgeport kicker Connor Kornbrath signed his letter of intent to join the Iowa Hawkeyes. Morgantown fullback Christian Allen also signed with a Division I program, etching his name with the Akron Zips.
In basketball, Morgantown's Nathan Adrien signed to play for Head Coach Bob Huggins at West Virginia University. Fairmont Senior's Katie Nunan also inked her name to play at Division I Akron University.
We saw several local high school programs drop down in classes. Bridgeport, Robert C. Byrd, Fairmont Senior and East Fairmont were among the notable schools to fall from Class AAA to Class AA.
In high school lacrosse, the Morgantown boys and Fairmont Senior girls came away state champions. The Preston Knights were the newest local school to add lacrosse as a varsity sport.
The Ritchie County softball team failed to repeat as Class AA champions, but Rebels pitcher Allison DeLancey repeated as West Virginia Player of the Year.
The Liberty baseball team rode a hot streak towards end the season all the way to the state semifinals from Power Park in Charleston. However, the Mountaineers fell in the semifinal round, ending Liberty's Cinderella story.
The Bridgeport girls soccer team knocked off rival Fairmont Senior in the Class AA girls soccer state championship game. The Fairmont Senior boys also came up in the losing end of the Class AA state championship, losing to Charleston Catholic in the title game.
Other local sporting events around the area such as the Clarksburg 10K Race, Bridgeport 4T Arena Rodeo and Morgantown Wounded Warrior Challenge, to name a few, offered unique athletic experiences for both fans and athletes. Also, the grand opening of the Bridgeport Recreation Complex brought youth baseball teams and more importantly, money to the community.
The year of 2012 was a productive one in the North Central West Virginia sports world. One thing is for sure, 2013 will have a tough act to follow.