By Duane Cochran
Times West Virginian
Tony Caridi’s message Saturday evening to Fairmont State University’s student athletes, coaches, administration, alumni and friends was simple, yet very compelling, especially during this time of change in Falcon athletics.
The longtime play-by-play announcer for West Virginia University football and basketball and sports director for the MetroNews Radio Network told those in attendance at the school’s 51st annual Spring Scholarship Banquet to remember two words — “Be brave.”
Caridi, who after graduating from Syracuse University took a chance and came to West Virginia 30 years ago for a broadcasting job not even really knowing where the state was, is now a household name in the Mountain State.
“For the student athletes who are graduating and moving on I encourage and challenge you to do this,” said Caridi. “In our lives we’re going to be faced with opportunities and in those opportunities there’s going to be decisions which are comfortable and ones which are scary. Our human nature tells us to take the easy one, the comfortable one, but that’s not always the right way to go.
“Be brave. If you remember anything I say to you this evening remember those words and here’s why. When you’re brave you open yourself up to new areas and new possibilities which might be scary at first, but might turn out to be the best for you. Take me for example. I came to West Virginia not knowing a single person and 30 years later I’m living my dream.”
Caridi went on to cite other examples of athletes he’s covered over the years at WVU who made scary but brave decisions which turned out to be fortuitous. Included in the group were the likes of Pat White, Steve Slaton, Joe Mazzulla, Da’Sean Butler and Joe Herber.
“It doesn’t surprise me that student athletes have a higher success rate in life after athletics because they know what it takes to be successful and they know how to work,” said Caridi. “I envy what you have here at Fairmont State. Division II athletics is as real as it gets. In Division I it’s no secret. It’s a business. You have a great situation here at Fairmont. It’s the perfect size and look at the success rate you’re having both academically and athletically here.”
Caridi also challenged current and incoming student athletes at FSU and the school’s administration and supporters to make the most of a new opportunity in the newly-formed Mountain East Conference.
“You’re on the cusp of a new era in Fairmont State University athletics,” he said. “The Mountain East Conference has formed and play will soon begin. As supporters what are you going to do? Are you going to take the easy way and say let’s put our teams out there and see what happens? Or are you going to be brave and say ‘You know what let’s go. Let’s make Fairmont State the showcase of how you can combine excellence in athletics and excellence in academics and put that Fairmont State brand even further out there in the new world of athletics we’re embarking upon.’ You’ve got a golden opportunity in front of you and the time has come to be brave.”
The annual event recognized both current and former Fairmont State University athletes for their accomplishments in athletics and in the classroom.
Former Falcon basketball All-American Dave Miller, who went on to have a distinguished career in teaching and administration as well as a stint in both the West Virginia House of Delegates and the state Senate, was presented with the 2013 Letterwinner of Distinction Award. This annual honor goes to a person who has received a degree from Fairmont State 25 or more years ago, earned a varsity letter, and who since leaving FSU has distinguished themselves in their community or profession.
The Eston K. Feaster Award was presented to senior women’s cross country runner Laura Horning and football player Daniel Strosnider. This award goes to the male and female student athletes who have maintained the highest overall academic average among letter winners. Horning, who is from Berlin, Pa., has a 4.0 grade point average in health science. Strosnider, on the other hand, has a 3.67 grade point average in elementary education. He’s a native of Morgantown.
The Jasper H. Colebank Award which is given 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 was presented to women’s basketball player Kaitlin Snyder and football player Matt Wilmer.
Snyder, who is from Charleston, was a four-year starter for the Lady Falcons and holds the school record for career scoring with 2,056 points. The three-time, first-team All-WVIAC selection helped lead the Lady Falcons to a pair of league tournament titles and two berths in the NCAA Division II National Tournament during her career. Snyder is the only player in school history to earn both All-America honors and Academic All-America honors in the same season. She’s also a former WVIAC and NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Player of the Year.
Wilmer, who is from Keyser, was a four-year standout for the Falcons in football and recently signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League. As a junior, Wilmer was a first-team All-WVIAC selection, the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region’s Special Teams Player of the Year and garnered All-America honors when he led the country in punt return average with 23.0 yards per return. He also was a first-team all-league selection as a specialist as a senior when he led the Falcons in kickoff return yardage with 539 and a pair of touchdowns. He also had 33 catches for 496 yards and five TDs this past fall as a wide receiver.
The 2013 recipient of the L.O. Bickel Service Award was Mike Arcure The award recognizes the sacrifice, service, leadership and loyalty of longtime members and advocates of the Fairmont State Athletic Association.
In addition Saturday evening, FSU senior swimmer Kathryn Saurborn and junior swimmer David Dent were honored for qualifying for the NCAA Division II National Meet. Saurborn, a five-time All-American during her career, finished third in the 50 free which is the highest finish ever for an FSU women’s swimmer in an NCAA event.
Mariah Calef, Paige Peters, Emily Mazzei and Nikki Sena of the FSU Acrobatics and Tumbling Team were recognized for winning a national championship in the seven-element acro event at the recent NCATA Championships. The Falcons’ Danielle DiCarlo was also honored for being named an All-American.
FSU’s Wilmer was recognized for being an All-American in football for the second straight season, while junior linebacker Garrett Davis was honored for leading the nation in solo tackles last fall with an average of 10.0 per game.
Veteran Fairmont State volleyball coach Larry Hill was recognized for surpassing the 600-win mark in his storied career.
The banquet also paid tribute to the FSU women’s and men’s basketball teams which both qualified for the NCAA Division II National Tournament. The women’s team was also recognized for winning its second WVIAC Tournament Championship in the last four years.
Both the men’s and women’s cross country teams and the women’s swimming team were also honored for their high academic achievements. FSU’s women’s cross country team had a GPA of 3.46 which was the 18th highest in the nation. The Falcons’ men’s cross country team had a GPA of 3.19, while the women’s swimming team combined for a GPA of 3.01.