The Centre Daily Times announced its semifinalists and the boys' and girls' winners of the 2017-18 Inspiring Athletes award Sunday in a ceremony at Mount Nittany Hospital. Penns Valley's Isabella Culver and Bald Eagle Area's Seth Koleno were chosen as the winners of the girls' and boys' awards, respectively.
If you run against the Penns Valley girls track or cross country teams, you run into trouble. And that trouble is Isabella Culver.
Culver is a force at any meet; at this year's Mountain League championships, she pulled off the rare feat of winning four gold medals in addition to leading the Lady Rams to the team title.
The junior made her mark again at the district championships, taking first in the 200 and breaking a 36-year-old district record in the 400 meters. She also helped the girls basketball team to its first district title since 1997 and first-ever Sweet 16 appearance in the state tournament.
Seth Koleno quite simply helped to transform the Bald Eagle Area wrestling program. As his coach Ron Guenot says of him, individuals like Koleno "don't come around very often."
Koleno was a four-time state-qualifying wrestler and a three-time medalist, and he finished 37-1 this season, earning the silver medal at the state championships. He finished his Eagles wrestling career fourth all-time in school history with 133 victories.
He led his team to the district championship match after winning a Mountain League title following an undefeated regular season. Koleno will continue his wrestling career at Clarion, but he won't soon be forgotten at Bald Eagle. As his coach said, "It's the little things that he does, things you don't think about, like ... being a leader. He goes down to elementary practice and works with our young elementary wrestlers.... He just does everything right."
The list of semifinalists and finalists is farther below.
The featured speaker at the event was former Penn State hockey coach Joe Battista, who was the face of the Penn State hockey program for 30 years as a player, head coach, and Associate Athletic Director. He has spent his entire career inspiring others, creating, building, and transforming organizations and teams, and serving “the greater good.” His passion for helping others is based on his long-time mantra that “someone has to care."
He was named Saturday to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame. He is now the Vice President of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy that assists former professional athletes in life and career transitions. He has a new book coming out this summer titled “The Power of Pragmatic Passion - 7 Common Sense Principles to Achieve Personal and Professional Success.”
Here is the list of the CDT's top 20 girls' and boys' Inspiring Athletes for 2017-18.
Taylor Givens, State College; Esther Seeland, State College, Maya Bokunewicz, State College, Hannah Montminy, Penns Valley, Isabella Culver, Penns Valley, Mallorie Smith, Bellefonte, Halle Herrington, Philipsburg-Osceola, Madison Lucas, Philipsburg-Osceola, Grace Hugar, Bald Eagle Area, Madison Rockey, Bald Eagle Area.
Kileigh Kane, State College, Kelsey Love, State College, Kam Harris, Philipsburg-Osceola, Rianna Trexler, Bellefonte, Alexis Wetzler, Bellefonte, Sera Mazza, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Julia Cusatis, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Jessica Irwin, State College, Leah Henderson, State College, Alana Masullo, Bellefonte.
Drew Friberg, State College, Brandon Clark, State College, Cole Urbas, State College, Seth Koleno, Bald Eagle Area, Gage McClenahan, Bald Eagle Area, Dylan Deitrich, Bellefonte, Chris Colwell, Penns Valley, Jack Mangene, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Caleb Dowling, St. Joseph’s Catholic Academy, Cohen Russell, State College.
Tommy Friberg, State College, Mitchell Etter, State College, Matt Brownstead, State College, Jared Gettig, Bald Eagle Area, Caleb Rockey, Bellefonte, Robert Nachtman, State College, Jackson Heasley, State College, Cade Fortney, Bellefonte, Adam Armstrong, Bellefonte, Rilee Bechdel, Bald Eagle Area.