Athletic excellence for Wheeling Park High School stood perfectly this school year at the crossroads of quality and quantity.
The Patriots picked up one state championship this 2018-19 campaign, coach Shawna Shepherd’s fourth state title in cheerleading. Yet Wheeling Park was in the running for state titles in nine other sports on its way to shattering the scoring record for the Class AAA Gazette-Mail Excellence in Sports Awards championship. It’s the Patriots’ second GMEISA and first since 2009.
This year’s award isn’t something that surprises WPHS athletic director Dwaine Rodgers. He has been around the school for a long time, as a student and athlete, a teacher, coach and administrator, and as a father.
“Number one, I’m very proud of Ohio County Schools,” he said. “I know what they did for me. I know what they did for my wife and I know what they’ve done for my children.
“We have great coaches,” he added. “Our board of education and superintendent, the leadership they provide allows us to do what we do. I’ve always felt Wheeling Park is special because we excel at so many things.”
The Patriots finished at least fourth in GMEISA scoring in 10 total sports. Park was runner-up in boys and girls track and field, boys soccer and wrestling. It finished third in golf and boys and girls swimming and tied for third in baseball. It finished fourth in boys cross country and softball.
Rodgers credits the coaching staff at Wheeling Park for not only their success guiding teams on the field, but also their skill at building their staffs and taking holistic views with their players, rather than just focusing on the sports side. In taking care of the entire student-athlete, he believes on-field success becomes a by-product of that.
“Our main job is to get our young people ready for the real game, and that’s called life,” Rodgers said. “I really don’t care about the wins and the losses. That’s not the most important part. I really do believe, and I think our coaches do, too, that when you get good, quality people, young men and women, that they focus on those things first.
“When you focus on those things,” Rodgers continued, “the W’s start coming. The program starts coming up.”
In the different decades and different roles he has been in around the Patriots program, Rodgers said that care for the student-athletes, and that care for their entire well-being, hasn’t changed.
“This is a cool, special place,” he said.
Another set of Patriots, five-time GMEISA champ George Washington High, finished second this school year with 62 points, boosted by state championships in boys soccer, boys tennis and golf. Hurricane finished third with 58.5 points, with girls soccer and softball state titles in their possession.
Wheeling Park finished at the top of the list in both the boys and girls categories. Park’s 39 points in the boys race outpaced GW’s 33.5. In the girls race, the Patriots collected 38.5 points to runner-up Hurricane’s 32.