Individuals shine in 2013Published Dec 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm (Updated Dec 28, 2013 at 7:44 pm)
In his rookie season, Gino Gradkowski of Dormont became a Super Bowl champion. The center helped the Baltimore Ravens defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31, in Super Bowl XLVII played at the Superdome in New Orleans. His play at center helped the Ravens score the most points (398) and post the second-most total yards (5,640) in team history (5,723). For all his success his first season in the NFL, Gradkowski had a not-so-pleasant homecoming as the Ravens lost to Pittsburgh, 19-16, in October. Ironically, Gradkowski’s older brother, Bruce, is a back-up quarterback for the Steelers. The Gradkowski brothers are Seton-La Salle High School graduates.
Ali Riske, who led Peters Township to WPIAL and PIAA titles, advanced her ranking to No. 56 in the world thanks to a breakout showing in the U.S. Open. The 23-year-old from McMurray won three rounds, including an upset of former Wimbledon champion, Petra Kvitova, before losing to No. 5 Daniela Hantuchova.
Lauren Woodring finished fourth among all women participating the Pittsburgh Marathon. The 25-year-old Bethel Park resident placed 35th overall among all finishers with a 2:45.59 time.
Callie Frey returns a backhand during WPIAL Class AAA singles championship action. The Mt. Lebanon senior defeated Maryls Bridgham of Pine Richland, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, to win her second straight title. Frey finished third in the state. Earlier in the spring, Peter Hazlett finished as runner-up in the boys’ tennis singles. Also in the autumn months, Lebo flexed its muscles, capturing its second straight WPIAL team title in girls’ cross country. And, just as the South Fayette men, the Lebo ladies took third at the PIAA championships.
After winning a WPIAL in the Class AA division, Amanda Lohman moved up a division and the Chartiers Valley sophomore defended her title as well as captured the gold medal during the PIAA diving championships. Her teammate on the CV swim team, Drew Damich, dominated the distance races, winning state gold medals in the 200- and 500-yard freestyle races. Lohman was not the only local diver to win a championship. Steve Zombek from South Fayette won the boys’ WPIAL Class AA title.
TJ McConnell’s wizardry at point guard has Arizona poised to make a run at a NCAA championship. The 6-1, 195-pound junior out of Chartiers Valley High School has the Wildcats ranked No. 1 in the country. He leads the team in assists and steals while averaging 6.8 points and 3.8 rebounds per game.
From the professional through the amatuer ranks, 2013 featured many a fine performance, not to mention, achievements, by area athletes. Here’s a look at some of the top individual efforts by local products.