By KIM LOCCISANO
Times Leader Staff Writer
It's the time of year when a couple hundred area teens gather for several days of intense preparation. They count down to the moment their first official step is taken on one of several local performance venues, as they have been selected to represent their schools in an annual event that long ago began carving out its claim to fame across the entire Ohio Valley.
T-L Photo/KIM LOCCISANO
There is nothing quite like the annual Ohio Valley Athletic Conference All-Star Football Championship event held at Wheeling Island Stadium in the early evening hours of Sunday, July 28.
For many participants, it will be a bitter-sweet experience as it signals the official close of their individual high school career in marching band, flag corps, dance line, on a cheering squad or on an all-star football team.
Each of the high school students participating in the annual event earned the opportunity to take part in this celebration of competition at its best.
But before anyone sets foot on any competition field or stage, there are practice sessions for all.
Some of those practices will be conducted under a baking summer sun, and others in the close quarters of a dance studio, but each is guaranteed to be intense in nature and rewarding at the same time.
Dru Meyer, head of the music program for Shadyside Schools, is the person who shoulders the overall year-round responsibility for all that comes under the banner of the OVAC-McDonald's All-Star Marching Band. The group numbers about 160 students and some 20 support staff.
If the student is marching anywhere throughout this approximately 5-day long experience, Meyer has oversight responsibility for them, a responsibility she and a select group of music performance professionals and OVAC All-Star Band program alumnae take seriously.
As a teacher, Meyer validates the dedication to the overall effort by awarding a set number of community service hours for participants who meet a basic participation standard of staying with the OVAC experience through the end of the actual game on Sunday, July 28.
"Dedication is the top thing," Meyer offered when asked about the musicianship of these high school band members who represent several class levels. "The desire to participate in a high energy camp is a key thing you want to see in these kids. The musicians basically don't get the music they will be playing at the end of the week until they get to band camp mid-week."
"I trust the directors who nominate their kids for this experience," she offered when reflecting on how such polish and performance quality is generated in a matter of just a few days. "They come to this band experience from all across the region and from a big variety of program types."
Several of the other groups for the event do get a slight opportunity to get acquainted with the music and routines they will be asked to know so that arriving at camp will signal the final design stage of the performance process for them as well, offered Meyer referring to the groups such as dance line and flag corps.
A similar expectation is made of all the cheerleaders selected to participate in the pageantry of the OVAC All-Star championship.
The person who designed this year's custom program is Zac Taylor, the outgoing band director at Steubenville High School.
"Zac has written a great jazz-themed show," offered Meyer. "He grew up in this OVAC band, performing in it himself as a student, then working with the band members, at camps, and now having done an outstanding job of writing this show."
Team effort is something that is seen throughout the entire OVAC All-Star experience.
The first glimpse the public has of this weekend-long celebration of the spirit of competition is at the opening of the Queen of Queens Pageant & Talent Show held Friday, July 26 at 7 p.m. in the WesBanco Arena in Wheeling.
A large group of individual OVAC Conference school's selected queens candidates will participate in the pageant, which centers on the evening's talent competition, and also includes interview opportunities, assessments of poise, and personality and commitment to the overall effort.
The young lady selected as the actual overall winner - the Queen of Queens - will not know the outcome of the competition until it is announced at a point during the championship game Sunday evening.
Each school's representative to Queen of Queens will be escorted onto the field by a cheerleader from their mutual high school.
As has become a tradition in its own right, at one point in the pageant on Friday, each queen will take the stage having added one of their school's football jerseys to what are otherwise identical group attire.
The program is built on a structure designed to award scholarships to several select candidates from among the entire field of individual school's representatives.
Joyce Jingle of Bellaire is Queen of Queens Pageant Director, and Linda Myers is Queen of Queens program director. Jingle sees the Queens competition from both a broad viewpoint and one of a personal connection to the entire program.
"I know from working with several of the girls in the past that participation in the Queen of Queens is something many have looked forward to since they were little girls. They have attended the talent show, watched friends and siblings, and hoped to someday be a part of it," she offered in reflection when asked what she thought the pageant means to its participants on a very personal level.
"For many of the girls, it is an opportunity to showcase their talents. Many of the contestants have trained for years in their performance area of dance, voice, or instrument. Some of the girls have very unique talents and do not have a playing field, stage, or outlet at their schools in which to demonstrate their abilities," said Jingle.
"So Queen of Queens provides an opportunity to showcase their talents with the same competitive edge and the same charitable outcome as the football players and cheerleaders," she said, referring to the overall charitable nature of the entire OVAC All-Star Championship as a fundraiser benefitting Shriner's burn centers care programs for children. "Before all the festivities of the weekend, the candidates' schedules include several rehearsals, the Evening With the Stars dinner, the OVAC Pep Rally, and, of course, the talent show and football game itself. "
"Earlier in the spring, the girls attended "Meet the Queens Night" hosted by the Osiris Temple. The queen candidates are responsible for the sale of ads for the All-Star Football Game Program. This provides OVAC scholarship money, as well as benefitting the targeted charity, the Osiris Shrine Hospital. The biggest commitment, however, is probably the time spent in preparation for their individual performances," she said.
"Although this is only my second year as director, I have been associated with the Queen of Queens for years - first, as a parent attending with my daughter, then as the parent of a queen candidate, when she was eligible to participate. My daughter, Stephanie, was named the 2001 OVAC Queen of Queens," shared Jingle. " I went on to encourage girls to participate through my private teaching and mentored Queen Corinne Tork in 2006 and Queen Allison Clark in 2009. "
"I accepted the position as director because the Queen of Queens was important to me. I knew what a unique and rewarding experience it was for the girls that I have been closely involved with. I wanted to be in a position to encourage girls to participate, to continue this long OVAC tradition and to maintain the integrity of the event," said Jingle. "As the director of the Queen of Queens Pageant, I would like the girls involved to realize what an honor it is to represent their school and their families, and to be a part of the long OVAC history. Years from now, I hope that the girls will be able to take their daughters and tell them about the year that they were a queen."
A reflection each director involved in these various components of the annual event - marching band, flag corps, dance line, cheerleading, Queen of Queens candidates and football players, as well as all the support personnel involved in this massive project - understand in a very personal way, a trait that has given a lasting purpose and continuing energy to this annual celebration of the area's many talented young people, their accomplishments and potential.
2013 OVAC All-Star Band
Bellaire - Kerstin Bommer, Greg Mehlman, Brittaney Diehl, Helen Stoneking, Jenna Belville, Lizzy Hawkins; Bridgeport - Brittany Stanton, Amber Bowers, Taylor Kies, Beth Kalinowski, Cordell Bennett, Vivica Foster, Taylor Yeater; Brooke - Alex Delancey, Eric Delancey, Justin Hoff, Gavin Shaffer, Megan Baker, Cindy Wells, Elizabeth Chuma, Matthew Jackson, Matthias Naill, Kelcey Coen, Alyssa Neville, Kayla Hancher, Skylar Russell, Hannah Armstrong, Seth Miller, Justin Taflan, Ashley Brown; Buckeye Local - Shylee Capalingo, Carissa Koleski, Ryan Lewton, Jacob Long, Bo Walker, John Rutan, Thomas Smallwood, Faith Barkhurst, James Piazza, Tim Smallwood, Zachary Kaiser, Holly Tester, Carrie Wallace, Shannon Morando, Brad Boring, Barbara Hendricks, Tyler Pasco; Cameron - Jonathn Matthews; Harrison Central - Abigail Hart, Jayd Jones, Samantha Craig, David Forrester, Laura Forrester, Mercedez Logsdon, Maryann Hart, Sarah Thatcher, Brittany Hawthorne, Jordan Erdos, Nicholas Freese, Scott Forrester; Indian Creek - Russell Whanger, Jared Conn, Nico Treglia, Chelsea Dalrymple; Magnolia - Warren Reece, Archie Petin, Anne Miller, Kendra White, Haley White; Martins Ferry - Wayne Chandler, Andrew Shaw, Lindsay Wayne, Alyssa Smith, Hannah Schleicher, Sara Liston, Robert Moore, Breanna Hudock, Shelby Poludniak, Tomlinson Alex; Meadowbrook - Dingus Tyler; River - Wesley Lloyd; Shadyside - Maddie Pacifico, Josh Boyd, Skyler Gibson, Sarah Dierkes, Lauren Kulazenka, Snedeker Jennifer, Olivia Leek, Breanna Adams-Ramsay, Dillon Tomlinson; St. Clairsville - Jarrod Heskett, Amanda Huffman, Stephanie Watkins, Allie Coe, Alexandria Hamilton, Irene Heath, Aelanah Sattler, Sarah Holtsclaw; Steubenville Catholic - Rachel Rigaud, Monica Rigaud, Jaylynn Buchmelter, Rebecca Fouts, Rachel Rigaud, Annabella Kuchan, Katherine Moore, Anna Luther, Mark Spinnenweber, Maria Kelly, Katie Engle, Jude Ledyard; Steubenville - Lucy Falls, Francesca Torini, Charles Massie, Noah McAllister, Jacob Walker, Jared Norris, Brien Beattie; Toronto - John Rodesh, Emily Rodesh, Emerson Robins, Hailey Gorney, Emily Kosikowski, Andrea McDiffitt, Erin Taggart, Chelsea Henery, Rebecca Zeigler; Tyler Consolidated - Veronica Rine, Daniel Grimm, Josh Pelikan, Caroline Bantug; Union Local - Alyssa McCardle, Zachary McGaffick, Michael Fox, Jane Smith, Christopher Cline, Jennifer Horne, Cassidy Simonson, Christine Horne, Ty Russell, Josef Neilson, Caleb Stoller, Katie Gaston; Valley - Samantha Roberts; Weir - Ella Jennings, Bryan Brown, Alexis Hardrow, Samantha Hayes, Emily Little, Jakob Hartley, Nichols Vandruff, Nick Campbell, Patrick McCoy, Asharay Smith, Robert Morris, Owen Pearson.
2013 OVAC All-Star Cheerleaders
Coach Melanie Haswell, Shadyside High School; Brenna Becca, Martins Ferry; Courtney Crolley, Martins Ferry; Abbey Latham, Union Local; Michelle Maffe, Bellaire; Kennedy Mattu, Union Local; Carly Moro, Steubenville; Erica Price, Toronto; Mykenna Risler, Toronto; Claire Slavik, St. Clairsville; Kalie Yashow, Toronto.
Coach Sarah Walter, Weir High School; Kayla Adams, Magnolia; Ceara Bauer, John Marshall; Makayla Clegg, Tyler Consolidated; Makenna Dziatkowicz, Madonna; Emily Hosler, Brooke; James Jeffers, Magnolia; Karly Mullens, Weir; Claudia Palmer, Linsly; Lynnsie Parsons, Paden City; Olivia Wiley, Wheeling Park.
2013 OVAC All-Star Field Officials
Referee - Rusty Vermillion, Ohio Valley Board, Wheeling; Umpire - Robert Ramsey, Columbiana County Board, East Liverpool; Linesman - Tom Bechtel, Ohio Valley Board, Wheeling; Line Judge - Larry McCloy, West Virginia/Ohio Board, Parkersburg; Field Judge - Mike Ridgway, Mason-Dixon Board, Morgantown; Side Judge - Joe McFarland, West Virginia/Ohio Board, Weirton; Back Judge - T.J. Brancazio, West Virginia/Ohio Board, Weirton.
2013 OVAC All-Star Queen of Queens
Georganne Bertha, Edison Local; Jessica Bethel, St. John Central; Karli Bonar, Shadyside; Eliza Cain, Magnolia; Juliet Casinelli, Brooke; Taylor Clem, Tyler Consolidated; Sophie Diemler, Wheeling Central; Ashley Durdines, Bishop Donahue; Mallory Fischer, Bridgeport; Andrea Greenwood, St. Clairsville; Giovanna Loccisano, Linsly; Aliyah Marelli, Buckeye Local; Savannah McCartney, John Marshall; Megan Nagy, Union Local; Adrienne Panas, Martins Ferry; Taylor Pavan, Madonna; Gabrielle Payne, Wheeling Park; Brooke Piergallin, Indian Creek; Taylor Scudiere, Morgantown.
2013 OVAC Ohio Football All-Stars
Ian Baker, Shadyside; Troy Blair, Meadowbrook; Brandon Brown, Cambridge; Dalton Conroy, Bellaire; Zach Coole, Martins Ferry; Shane Duncan, Buckeye Local; Evan Eggleston, River; CoreyErnest, St. Clairsville; Dallas Fields, Bridgeport; Chris Graziani, Edison; Josh Guiler, Monroe Central; Zach Herrington, Steubenville Central; Cody Hudson, Shadyside; Teryn Jarrett, Beallsville; Chase Kinemond, Shadyside; Matt Kinnick, St. Clairsville; Korey Lafferre, Monroe Central; Daniel Lattanzio, Beaver Local; Brian Magorien, Caldwell; Sean McGee, Martins Ferry; Trent Neavin, Martins Ferry; Nick Pelegreen, Harrison Central; Matt Petrella, Steubenville; Colton Pritchard, Barnesville; Brooks Ramsey, Shadyside; Dashon Redman, Steubenville; Manard Reed, Steubenville; Tyler Rose, Harrison Central; Cody Schau, Martins Ferry; Luke Smith, St. Clairsville; Shane Winland, Indian Creek. Coach - Mark Holenka; Asst. Coaches - Jeff Campbell, Chase Grinch, John Grinch, Ty Fleming, B.A. Holloway, Michael Kernick, Randy Merryman; Team Doctor - Dr. David Gaphery; Trainer - Zach Moody; Managers - Sam Merryman, Kyle Tomlinson.
2013 OVAC West Virginia Football All-Stars
Daren Baldwin, Weir; Tyler Bolen, Parkersburg South; Jordan Bonar, Bishop Donahue; Logan Cox, Parkersburg South; Deion Cunningham, University; Alex Doak, Tyler Consolidated; Jake Feiler, Parkersburg South; Jeremiah Fromhart, John Marshall; Tanner Hanna, Magnolia; Braxton Johnson, Parkersburg South; Tim Kocher, University; Trevor Layton, University; Hunter LeMasters, Tyler Consolidated; Jon Lewis, University; Evan Magers, John Marshall; Austin Martin, Cameron; Raleigh Mason, Brooke; Spencer Mason, Valley; Tyler Menas, Clay Battelle; Preston Murray, Oak Glen; Nick Naumann, Wheeling Central; Markeith O'Neal, Wheeling Park; Chinelo Oparanozie, Linsly; Michael Pleva, Wheeling Central; Ben Rodgers, Brooke; Stephen Rogalski, Magnolia; Chance Siebieda, Wheeling Central; Blaine Stewart, Morgantown; Jalen Thomas, Morgantown; Chris Varner, Hundred; Alex Weidman, Morgantown; Andrew Wheeler, Wheeling Park; Tanner Yoho, Wheeling Park. Coach - Mike Young; Asst. Coaches - Ed Anderson, Jamie Bordas, DeVaughn Gordon, Shannon Kuchinski, Jason Rine, Jim Wolfe; Team Doctor - Dr. Robert Jones; Trainer - Jason Coleman; Managers - Parker Henry, Derek Yoche.