It was the usual suspects — Bridgeport in Class AA and Wheeling Central in Class A — coming away with Gazette-Mail Excellence in Sports Awards for their overall production during the 2018-19 school year.

But there was a notable change in the big-school classification as Wheeling Park emerged as the GMEISA Class AAA winner — in record-setting fashion.

The GMEISA rankings are based on each school’s finish in the 19 sports sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Acitivities Commission. The top eight finishers in each of the sports — 10 boys sports, nine girls sports — are awarded points on a scale of eight points for a state championship team, seven for a runner-up finish, six for third place, etc., down to one point for an eighth-place showing.

Here’s a rundown of the three winners. We’ll have a closer look at each of them later this week.

CLASS AAA

It’s been 10 years (2008-09) since Wheeling Park won its first — and, until now, only — Class AAA GMEISA honor, and the Patriots achieved this in record-setting fashion, accumulating 77.5 points in the ranking system. That shatters the previous Class AAA GMEISA standard, heretofore held by Parkersburg, which maxed out at 68 points twice (2000-01 and 2016-17).

Park’s victory also ended Parkersburg’s two-year run of GMEISA championships, which brought the Big Reds’ total to a Class AAA-best nine honors in the 23-year history of the award. (George Washington ranks second with five AAA GMEISAs, and Wheeling Park and Morgantown are the only AAA schools with more than one.)

The Patriots achieved their record-setting total with exquisite balance, totaling 39 points in boys sports and 38.5 points in girls sports.

Wheeling Park won only one team championship during the school year, a first-place finish in cheerleading. But the Patriots amassed their record total by finishing with top-eight finishes in 14 of the 19 sports.

n Park finished as state AAA runner-up in wrestling and track and field on the boys side and soccer and track and field on the girls side.

n Third-place finishes came in golf, boys swimming and girls swimming.

n Other top-four finishes came in boys cross country (fourth), baseball (tied for third as state semifinalist) and softball (fourth).

n Wheeling Park also scored GMEISA points in boys soccer (tied for fifth as regional finalist), girls basketball (tied for fifth as state quarterfinalist) and girls tennis (sixth).

n The only five sports in which the Patriots didn’t finish in the top eight were football, boys basketball, boys tennis, volleyball and girls cross country.

George Washington finished as AAA GMEISA runner-up for the second year in a row, finishing with 62 points on the strength of boys titles in soccer, golf and tennis.

Rounding out the top five in the AAA standings were Hurricane (58.5), Parkersburg (51.5) and University (51).

CLASS AA

Bridgeport has now won the Class AA GMEISA crown for the past seven years — or every year since SSAC reclassification dropped the school down from the AAA ranks after the 2011-12 school year.

The seven-year run is topped only by the nine-year stretch of GMEISA championships that Charleston Catholic copped in Class A from 2008-09 to 2016-17.

Bridgeport’s total of 11 GMEISA titles — the Indians were also No. 1 in AA in 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2001-02 and tied for first with Winfield in 2002-03 — ranks second only to Charleston Catholic’s 12 in Class A in the 23-year history of the award.

Bridgeport, with 74.5 GMEISA points this school year, didn’t return to the top without a strong fight from runner-up Winfield, which amassed 71 points. Winfield made it close by claiming state championships in five sports — boys soccer and track and field and girls cross country, cheerleading and track and field.

Bridgeport’s championship in baseball — the Indians sixth in a row in that sport, and the final title handed out in the school year — pushed BHS over the top.

The Indians also had state titles in boys swimming and volleyball and finished as AA state runner-up in three girls sports — cross country, swimming and track and field.

In all, Bridgeport tallied GMEISA points in 13 sports. The only girls sport in which the Indians failed to finish among the top eight was soccer. Forty-three of Bridgeport’s 74.5 total points came from girls sports.

Bridgeport ranked third among boys GMEISA points with 31.5, behind Fairmont Senior (33.5) and Winfield (33). Winfield also ranked second in girls total points with 38.

The Class AA GMEISA story is pretty much written by those two schools. Bridgeport has 11 GMEISA championships, Winfield has eight (counting the one year the Indians and Generals tied) and no other school has won more than once.

CLASS A

With 10 small-school GMEISA titles, including the last two in a row, Wheeling Central is closing in on Charleston Catholic’s all-classification record of 12 GMEISA championships.

Finishing with 57.5 GMEISA points, Wheeling Central finished with a comfortable 12.5 lead over the Class A runner-up, Williamstown (45), which can claim this year’s high mark among public schools. In GMEISA’s 23-year history, no public school has ever won the Class A honor, and either Charleston Catholic or Wheeling Central has won that title every since since Parkersburg Catholic won the initial GMEISAs were handed out after the 1996-97 school year.

This school year, Charleston Catholic finished third (41.4 points), Parkersburg Catholic was fourth (30) and Magnolia was fifth (29).

Wheeling Central did it this year in its usual style — good balance among girls and boys sports and multiple top finishes.

The Maroon Knights tallied Class A-bests with 29.5 points in boys sports and 28 in girls sports. State championships came in football and golf, and Central settled for runner-up finishes in cheerleading and softball.

Contact Nick Scala at 304-348-7947 or nickscala@wvgazettemail.com. Follow him on Twitter @nick_scala319.