TAYLOR COUNTY—Although winter prep sports in the state were disrupted and spring sports were completely eliminated, the WV Gazette in Charleston still gave out their respective annual “Excellence in Sports Awards” to schools in each of the three classifications.
The 2019-20 winners of the award, which recognize the top overall high school sports programs in the state, were won by George Washington (AAA), Bridgeport (AA), and Charleston Catholic (A).
George Washington, known in Charleston as the school on “The Hill,” has now won six ‘GMEISA’ titles, second only to Parkersburg in Class AAA, who has won a total of nine. GW finished the 2019-20 school year with 49.5 points, ahead of runner-up Wheeling Park (40.5 points), who won the title last season.
In Class AA, Bridgeport is the winner for the eighth consecutive year and has brought home the hardware for the 12th time in the 24 years that the award has been presented. The Indians (53.5 points), finished just ahead of runner-up Fairmont Senior, who totaled 51 points.
Class A powerhouse Charleston Catholic won the award for the 13th time overall, the most in GMEISA history. The Irish finished with just 24 points, the lowest total ever for a winner, but it was enough to end the two-year reign of Wheeling Central, a 10-time champion in Class A. Ritchie County was this year’s runner-up in that classification with 20 points.
The 2019-20 school year (and the spring prep sports seasons) were abruptly shut down by COVID-19. Boys track, boy’s tennis, baseball, girl’s track, girl’s tennis, softball, were completely wiped out and the pandemic also ended the boy’s and girl’s postseason basketball tournaments early.
The disruptions and cancelations to the winter and spring seasons left the Gazette with questions that needed to be answered about the awards, including whether to even declare the three winners.
“We decided that although the 2019-20 school year wasn’t completed, GMEISA points were accumulated up through the shutdown, and we think the top schools should still be recognized in the shortened championship season,” the website stated recently. “Apply an asterisk if you please, but GW, Bridgeport, and Charleston Catholic earned the right to be called GMEISA champs.”
Figuring out how to allot points for the basketball tournaments that didn’t reach their conclusions was the real challenge for the organization, but a complex scoring system was installed and can be reviewed on their website.
Schools rounding out the Top 10 in AAA were: Morgantown (36 points, won the girl’s cross country and soccer titles), Cabell Midland (33 points), University (32 points, won the boy’s cross country title), Parkersburg (26.5 points), Hurricane, (23.5 points), Parkersburg South (18.5 points), Huntington (17 points), and Martinsburg and Hedgesville (tied with 15 points each).
Class AA Bridgeport kept its streak alive with its usual consistency as the Indians won two state titles (football and cheerleading) and had runner-up finishes in boy’s cross country and swimming. Rounding out the AA Top 10 were Winfield (34 points), Oak Glen (25.5), Robert C. Byrd (15.5), North Marion (15), Shady Spring and Point Pleasant (tied, 13 each), Lincoln (11.5), and Philip Barbour (10.5).
Bridgeport’s eight consecutive GMEISA championships are only one shy of the record of nine in a row won by Charleston Catholic from 2008 until 2017, but the Indians will be moving back up to Class AAA for at least the next four years, so things may change. Bridgeport will be the smallest school (by enrollment) in Class AAA, which will now include 32 schools (up from 29 the past four years).
Class A Charleston Catholic earned approximately one-third of its points by winning the girl’s soccer state championship. Rounding out Class A was Ritchie County with 20 points, just ahead of perennial powerhouse Wheeling Central who finished with 19.5, Williamstown (17.5 points), St. Mary’s (17), Doddridge County (11), Tug Valley (10.5), Parkersburg Catholic (10), and Greenbrier West, Wirt County and Pendleton County (tied with 8 points each).