WHEELING - It's not often an OVAC product earns a spot on an NCAA Division I women's cross country team.
Two, well, that's almost unheard of.
But that's the case this fall at the University of Illinois as Wheeling Park alum Courtney Yaeger and Barnesville graduate Stephanie Morgan are leading the Illini harriers.
Yaeger, a senior, and Morgan, a redshirt junior who also ran collegiately at Baylor, each figure prominently on the team's season preview on the team's Website.
"I think Stephanie and Courtney will be two great leaders this year for us," Illinois head coach Jeremy Rasmussen said in the story on fightingillini.com. "Stephanie is looking to be even better than she was a few years ago while Courtney will be relied on a very consistent basis. Coming off the track season she had, I think she has a newfound confidence for who she is and what she's doing so that is exciting."
The pair didn't compete in the season-opening Illini Challenge as the Illini only had five runners participate. The Illini will run in the Illinois Intercollegiate on Friday before competing on the Notre Dame Invitational in South Bend on Sept. 28.
Schools to be Commended
As someone who isn't Ohio Valley native - I'm a native of Fostoria, Ohio, if you're wondering - I've always been in awe of the quality of the colleges and universities in the immediate vicinity of Wheeling.
The area boasts two NCAA Division II institutions (Wheeling Jesuit and West Liberty), two NCAA Division III schools (Bethany and Franciscan), along with Ohio University Eastern.
All five of them boast solid athletic programs and this fall three of them added to their offerings.
Wheeling Jesuit (AD Danny Sancomb) brought back rugby, West Liberty (Jim Watson) added women's soccer, and Bethany (Tim Weaver) revived its women's field hockey program.
It's a win-win for all schools. The additions enhance the athletic programs, provide more opportunities, and open up school enrollment to those who might have had to go someplace else to play a particular sport.
Kudos to the athletics directors, as well as the school presidents, etc., for having the vision to make good things better.
Cards Get Revenge
Maybe the West Virginia Conference should rename its volleyball Player of Week award the Jenna Pew Volleyball Player of the Week Award.
The Wheeling Jesuit senior earned the honor for the second time in as many weeks following another sparkling performance last weekend at the Findlay Classic at the University of Findlay.
All told, Pew, a senior, has won the award nine times during her career.
In Findlay, the Cardinals (7-1) defeated the host school, Indianapolis, eighth in this latest AVCA Top 25 Poll, and Hillsdale, which knocked off WJU in last season's Elite Eight.
Against Hillsdale, Pew almost recorded a quadruple double. She had 20 kills, 15 assists, 11 digs and nine blocks.
Speaking of the Top 25 poll, the Cardinals jumped up to 21st after falling out of the Top 25 last week.
Who Are These Guys?
It's never too early to take a quick glance at how the non-West Virginia Conference schools that will help make up the Mountain East Conference next fall are doing this football season.
For those who have been living under a rock recently, all of the current WVC schools, with the exception of Ohio Valley, Bluefield State and Alderson-Broaddus, announced last month the formation of the new venture that will also include Notre Dame College, Urbana and Virginia-Wise.
Wheeling Jesuit will be the only team in the conference that doesn't have football.
Notre Dame College, located in suburban Cleveland, stands at 1-1. They won their opener, 59-42, against Mercyhurst, and fell to Grand Valley State last week in a wild 83-46 contest. The Falcons are currently members of the GLIAC.
Katie Hine, the former Wheeling Jesuit standout and head women's basketball coach for the Cardinals, is the head coach for the Falcons women's program.
Urbana, members of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, are 2-0 after victories against Tusculum (53-33) and Seton Hill (34-31).
UV-Wise, a member of the Mid-South Conference, is 1-2. The Cavaliers opened the season with a 24-21 overtime victory against Bethel before losing to Faulkner (43-10) and Campbell (10-0).
Rick Thorp can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org