Bridgeport's community effort
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Bridgeport made the move from Class AAA back to Class AA prior to the 2012-2013 school year and, much like its previous stay in the middle of the state's three high school athletic classifications, finds itself at the top of the class.
The Indians are this year's Class AA Gazette Excellence in Sports Award winner thanks to state championships in girls basketball and girls soccer to go with strong showings in nearly all of the 19 total sports sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
Bridgeport set a Class AA record with 751/2 GEISA points, beating second-place Fairmont Senior by more than 20 points (points are awarded to the top eight finishers in each sport on an 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 scale). It is the Indians' fifth GEISA, second only to Winfield (eight) in AA since the Gazette began the competition for the 1996-1997 school year.
Bridgeport scored points in all but four sports - boys golf, wrestling, volleyball and softball - with the boys sports totaling 40 points and the girls amassing 351/2. To put that in perspective, the Indians boys teams would have finished behind only Fairmont Senior overall, while the girls would have been looking up at only the Polar Bears and Bridgeport boys.
"Anyone would have a hard time arguing that when your community supports the school, teachers, coaches and most importantly the students, then all those things can flourish," Bridgeport football coach Josh Nicewarner said. "Across the board I think Bridgeport High School is pretty successful at anything it competes at."
On the boys side, the Indians did not win any state championships but were in the mix in most sports. The swim team took second place in the state, the football and baseball teams each reached the state semifinals, and in the eight boys sports in which the Indians scored points, none of them finished lower than sixth.
"I don't want to speak for other programs or other people, but the one thing that's kind of an unwritten rule is that you're expected to succeed, be it on the classroom or on the field," Nicewarner said. "Speaking for football specifically, we set one goal - to win the state championship. I like to think that's somewhat how all the programs are set up. Every time we step out to compete we expect to win. It's something that's become a tradition at Bridgeport. Instead of talking about it, we mostly like to show it."
Nicewarner and girls basketball coach Dave Marshall both mentioned that support and sense of community with sports starts for Bridgeport players at an early age, and with that the parents become a vital part of what they do.
If you are familiar with high school football in West Virginia then chances are you've heard of the Indians' famed "Stick-I" offensive formation that they've used successfully for decades. The players and coaches are all taught the system from an early age and that has translated to success on the gridiron.
That phenomenon is not limited to just football in Bridgeport, however. Children get involved with specific sports at an early age and learn what it takes to be an Indian when they reach high school.
"The main thing that I think symbolizes Bridgeport High School as a whole is that we are community based. That somewhat encompasses everything from academics to athletics," Nicewarner, who started as a player at Bridgeport before serving as an assistant coach and eventually the head coach, said.
The girls program was highlighted by the state championships in soccer and basketball.
Marshall said the drop to Class AA helped his team get back in position to win a state title. The Indians reached the 2012 Class AAA state championship game but lost to Greenbrier East.
"That obviously had a tremendous effect," Marshall said. "Truthfully, last year's team was much more experienced and well rounded. There's been a lot of dedication in the offseason with these girls and we had a group of parents that came through and really helped get this thing off the ground. This group picked up that ball."
Frankfort finished third in the GEISA Class AA standings behind the Bridgeport and Fairmont Senior, with Ritchie County taking fourth and Bluefield rounding out the top five.
For winning, Bridgeport will get the traveling GEISA trophy to keep for a year and will receive a plaque that stays at the school.
Reach Tom Bragg at firstname.lastname@example.org.