Sun shines on BVA's parade of champions
It was only fitting.
On a day when the Belle Vernon Area community honored a softball team that only a year before won just five games and this year won a WPIAL title and a girl who is a member of a track team that doesn't have a track, but became the first female individual WPIAL track champion in school history, the sun shined brightly.
And the sun shined down on the victory parade through North Belle Vernon even though weather forecasters promised heavy rains and lightning all day long.
“I'm glad the weather cooperated,” said BVA athletic director Jesse Cramer, who organized the event. “We were getting a little nervous there for a while. But the sun is out and the people are out and it's a great day for our school and community.
“This couldn't have worked out better.”
The parade was held in honor of BVA's 2015 WPIAL Class AAA champions, the girls' softball team and Gianna Gaul.
The Leopards (21-3) defeated Yough, 5-4, to win the crown and Gaul, a senior, won the WPIAL discus title.
A large crowd lined Broad Avenue as the parade, which included the honored guests as well as various fire departments, youth fastpitch softball teams in the community and veterans organizations, made it's way through town.
BVA Superintendent Dr. John Wilkinson beamed with pride as he watched the parade go by, taking photos of each organization as it passed.
“It's a great day to be a Leopard,” Wilkinson said. “We're proud of our athletes, and especially our girls - the softball team and Gianna - for achieving such a milestone.
“They united the district, gave a focus to our students through the end of the school year and it was just good to cheer on your classmates. It's a great feeling for all of us.”
After the parade, a brief ceremony was held and several people got a chance to say how they felt about their champions.
“This is a day you will never forget,” Belle Vernon Mayor Gerald Jackson told the girls. “In 1978, Belle Vernon won the WPIAL (boys' basketball) title and people are still talking about it today.”
BVA girls' track coach Rod Kavic praised his senior star, saying not only did she win the WPIAL title, but she went to Shippensburg a week later for the PIAA championships and finished fifth despite competing against the finest athletes in the state.
BVA softball coach Tom Rodriguez, who has now coached two WPIAL champions, said his 2015 team showed how hard work and team unity pays off.
“This team went 5-12 last year, but they worked all winter long and played AAU ball,” Rodriguez said. “And the championship game was the most exciting game in my 20-some year career.”
And even long after the celebration was over and the streets were clear, the sun was still shining brightly - just to make sure.
It was only fitting.
Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or email@example.com.