Elderton closing could alter paths of other ASD teams
As the Armstrong School District moves forward into an Elderton-less future, it can look to its recent past to get a sense of how the remaining athletic programs, specifically those at West Shamokin, might benefit.
Enhanced by many of Elderton's athletes during the 2009-10 school year, West Shamokin's girls basketball and volleyball teams excelled at unprecedented levels. There's early optimism that the same is possible this time.
“I believe that one of my strengths as a coach is the ability to bring people together,” new girls basketball coach Judd McCullough said. “They're coexisting in a fantastic way. They see the team's potential.”
McCullough stepped down as West Shamokin's golf coach to take the basketball job in May, and he has inherited a program that's been in a topsy-turvy state for the past several seasons.
In 2009-10, under first-year coach Kirk Lorigan, West Shamokin enjoyed its first winning season — the Wolves went 12-9 — and its first playoff win, a 48-32 victory over Riverview in the Class AA preliminary round.
During the offseason that followed, Lorigan resigned and became West Shamokin's principal. Two seniors graduated. And the team's top two scorers returned to Elderton, which reopened in 2010.
Under coach Fred Skrocki, West Shamokin won just four games combined during the next two seasons.
Enter McCullough, who started open gyms the same month he was approved as coach and has held about 25 optional practices thus far.
The presence of Elderton players has been limited, said McCullough, who has extended invitations to the former Bobcats.
“There is so much that's yet to be seen,” McCullough said. “I'm trying to be as patient as possible and not be pushy, and also be as welcoming as possible.”
One Elderton girl is already a fixture at West Shamokin practices, however. Incoming senior Jill Glover, the leading scorer at Elderton the past two seasons and at West Shamokin in her freshman year, has attended “religiously,” according to McCullough.
A 6-foot-1 combo guard, Glover is a fine addition to a West Shamokin lineup that lost just two seniors to graduation.
Glover also gives West Shamokin's girls volleyball team a bump, one that might help the Wolves contend for another WPIAL title.
The 2009 West Shamokin team claimed the Class A championship. During the next two seasons, the Wolves qualified for the Class AA playoffs but lost their first match.
Elderton's girls re-enter the picture just one season removed from winning the Class A title.
“Bringing these programs together means bringing a consistent thought process that volleyball equals success,” coach Justin Nolder said. “Is there pressure (to win another title)? No, not really. … It's a new season. This isn't the team from 2009.”
While West Shamokin will get one of Elderton's better multi-sport stars, Ford City will receive another. In addition to playing on the boys soccer team, junior Bethany Meyer was a starting guard in basketball and a standout shortstop in softball.
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1321.