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Plum senior duo selected for Positive Athlete accolades

Twenty-one Plum student athletes were nominated by the coaches of each of the Mustangs teams for the Positive Athlete Pittsburgh award. Criteria ranged from displaying a positive attitude and teammate encouragement to giving 100 percent and putting team goals first.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Two students from Plum High School have been voted Western Pennsylvania's “Most Positive High School Athletes” in their individual sports by Positive Athlete, an organization created by former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward.

Ward will present awards to seniors Stephanie Bono (cheerleading) and Matt Shepherd (boys volleyball), along with 26 other winners representing a variety of boys and girls sports, on April 20 during a ceremony at the Sen. John Heinz History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum in Pittsburgh.

Bono also is a member of the Plum varsity girls track and field team.

“This is the second year for the Positive High School Athlete Awards, and the stories of our nominees continue to amaze me,” Ward said.

“I was always credited with having a positive influence on my team during my days with the Steelers, but the stories I hear about kids like Stephanie and Matt really inspire me to be a better person.”

Last year, Plum's Mia Pietropola, a senior this year, won both the Positive Girls Swimmer Award, as well as the 2012 Most Positive Female High School Athlete.

Pietropola, who helped the Mustangs girls 200 free relay team set a new school record at this year's WPIAL championships, was born deaf but can hear with the help of a cochlear implant.

Through hard work and determination, she has overcome her disability and excels in the pool, as well as the classroom.

Positive Athlete Pittsburgh and the Positive High School Athlete Awards are in their second years and were created as a movement for more positivity in youth sports.

In addition to excellence on the field, each participating Positive Athlete shares similar characteristics, including an optimistic attitude, teammate encouragement, servant leadership, heart for others, ability to admit imperfections, giving 100 percent all the time, and realizing the team as more important than the individual.

More than 170 nominations from 75 different western Pennsylvania high schools were submitted last year, and more than 200 nominations were received this year.

“We didn't put out a search for the best athletes in western Pennsylvania,” Ward said.

“We put out a search for kids with positive attitudes whose efforts don't necessarily show up on the stat sheets. These kids are also positive role models in their schools who get involved in charitable causes and have already learned the meaning of giving back at an early age.

In all, 21 Plum student-athletes were selected by the coaches of each of the Mustangs teams for the Positive Athlete Pittsburgh based on the above criteria.

In addition to Bono and Shepherd, the other nominees were Will Kirkpatrick (baseball), Andrew Dawson (boys basketball), Aly Weifenbaugh (girls basketball), Bryanne Woods (bowling), Luke Jennings (cross country), Nate Turchick (football), Andrew Reynolds (golf), Andrew Pagano (ice hockey), Jake Danik (rifle), Daniel Reid (boys soccer), Addie Jacobs (girls soccer), Jordan Seneca (softball), Jessica Allman (slow-pitch softball), Katie Byers (swimming), Thomas Rudzinski (boys tennis), Julie Lester (girls tennis), Jeff Ruffing (track and field), Bryan Parker (boys volleyball), Rachel Satira (girls volleyball) and Hunter Fenk (wrestling).

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at

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