By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
Veteran National Football League and NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball official Gene Steratore’s message Saturday evening to those in attendance at the 52nd annual Fairmont State University Spring Scholarship Banquet was that simple.
And all current student-athletes and former student-athletes at any level who were present last night understood immediately what he was talking about.
The Washington, Pennsylvania resident, who also serves as the Director of Football Officials for the Mountain East Conference, told stories about growing up in a family with a father who was a well-known, big-time official and shared some of his favorite moments as a referee on the field in the NFL and on the basketball court in Division I, but at the end his real message came through clearly.
“I love to officiate to this day because there’s just something about game day,” said the 51-year-old Steratore. “Anyone who has ever participated in organized sports understands what game day means.
“It’s that feeling you get. You know it’s special. It’s what comes from being dedicated. Most athletes are dedicated. You don’t spend 1,000 hours practicing to compete for one hour. That’s dedication.
“When the games end, though, and it’s time to move on in life and get a job and prepare for your career, the challenge for you as an individual every single day is to make it a game day. Because it is. Now, though, it’s the game of life and there are no guarantees in life. There’s no set time limit and no score is kept, but you’ve got to make each day special.”
The annual event recognized current and former Fairmont State University athletes for their accomplishments in athletics and the classroom.
Former Falcon baseball player John Lowery, who has gone on to have a stellar career as a teacher and the head baseball coach at Jefferson High School, where he’s won well over 1,100 games and 10 West Virginia State Championships, was presented with the 2014 Letterwinner of Distinction Award.
This annual honor goes to a person who has received a degree from Fairmont State 25 or more years ago and earned a varsity letter, and who since leaving Fairmont State, has distinguished him or herself in their community or profession. Lowery, who has coached for 44 years, is the only high school coach in West Virginia and one of only 10 in the nation to record at least 1,000 career wins.
The Eston K. Feaster Award was presented to senior women’s tennis player Caitlin Crutchfield and senior men’s swimmer Ryan Radcliff. This award goes to the male and female student athletes who have maintained the highest overall academic average among letter winners.
Crutchfield, who is from Fairmont, was a four-year letter winner in tennis and has maintained a 3.73 grade point average in exercise science. Radcliff, who is from Parkersburg and was a four-year standout in swimming, has already graduated with a degree in criminal justice in which he maintained a 3.78 grade point average. He’s currently pursuing a Master’s Degree at FSU in the same field.
Senior volleyball player Bri Swann and senior swimmer David Dent were honored with the Jasper H. Colebank Award. This award is presented to the senior who, in the course of his or her college career, has done the most to promote the best interest of athletics at Fairmont State University.
Swann, who is from Xenia, Ohio, was a four-year standout and three-year all-conference performer for the Falcons in volleyball. She finished her career third in school history in career kills with 1,678 and this past fall led the new Mountain East Conference in kills. She earned NCAA Division II All-Region honors three times during her career and was an Academic All-America selection this season.
Dent, who is from South Charleston, was a four-year letter winner and team captain on the Fairmont State men’s swimming team. He earned All-Bluegrass Mountain Conference honors following his junior and senior campaigns and qualified for the NCAA Division II Championships in the 50 freestyle as a junior. Dent holds the school record in the 50 free, 100 free, 200 free relay, 400 free relay, 800 free relay, 200 medley relay and 400 medley relay at FSU. He also holds the Feaster Center pool record in each of those events.
The 2014 recipient of the L.O. Bickel Service Award is longtime FSU educator Dr. Donald Moroose. The award recognizes the sacrifice, service, leadership and loyalty of longtime members and advocates of the Fairmont State Athletic Association. Moroose is the faculty athletic representative for FSU.
In addition Saturday evening, FSU senior football player Garrett Davis was recognized for setting a new record at the school for career solo tackles with 246.
Acrobatics and Tumbling junior Danielle DiCarlo was honored for receiving NCATA All-America honors for the third straight year.
Senior men’s golfer Jess Ferrell was recognized for being FSU’s first-ever Mountain East Conference Player of the Year and for earning an individual berth in the upcoming NCAA Division II Regional Tournament.
The banquet also paid tribute to junior first-team All-MEC selection Hailey Garrett for scoring the 1,000th-point of her career during this past season in women’s basketball.
Swann was also recognized for earning Academic All-America honors.
Men’s swimmer Pasko Komadina, a junior, was honored for being an NCAA Division II National Swim Meet qualifier in four events as well as an honorable mention All-America selection.
Freshman men’s basketball player Thomas Wimbush was also recognized for being the Mountain East’s Conference’s Freshmen of the Year.