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The Zak Zone

January 5, 2012

Although it seems a bit late to be saying this, "Happy New Year, everyone!"

Five days into 2012, I hope all your New Year's resolutions are still going strong. Only 361 days left after today, thanks to the extra one thrown in for the leap year.

Personally, I'm not much for making resolutions, because for the most part, I stink at following through with them.

For myself, the turning of the page on the calendar and in my life is more about reflecting on the things that have happened over the past year and looking forward to what lies ahead in the next chapter.

Looking back on 2011, it certainly was a year of transition in all areas of my life.

After moving back to the area in 2010, I found myself still adjusting to living in my hometown again at the beginning of last year.

After three years living in the big city, it was definitely a transition in areas such as remembering that gas station food is the only available option after hours.

As a sports fan, the move home was also a transition — one that saved me quite a bit of money in the long run.

Living within 15 minutes of all three major sports stadiums in Pittsburgh meant that I spent far too much money personally attending Pirates, Penguins and Steelers games — a mistake I would probably make over and over again if I still lived there.

Returning home meant transitioning into being alright with "attending" the professional games via television, radio or Internet gamecast as I used to growing up.

More personally, it was also a big transition year for me, as well.

I bought a house, which was a huge step I didn't foresee in my future when the ball dropped to ring in 2011. I also took on a new job.

After a short stint working as a TSS in the schools, I knew that as much as I enjoyed the work, it just wasn't what I was called to do for the long haul.

So, when I was offered the position of sports writer at The Spirit, I knew I was in for another transition, but it was another I welcomed with open arms.

2011 was a year of transition for myself and those around me, but I wouldn't have had it any other way. The doors that were opened in 2011 were such a blessing that I'm very excited to see what 2012 has in store.

In sports, the phrase "transition year" is always pegged as a bad thing.

As a Pittsburgh Pirates fan, I know all too well the pain of a transition year — or 18 consecutive transition years, to be more specific.

But I'm not so sure the transition peg is one that should be so negatively attributed.

OK, so maybe in the Pirates' case, it should be so negatively attributed, but there are all sorts of teams in transition that don't deserve the negativity that is associated with the phrase.

I jumped into the Punxsutawney sports scene in the midst of the end of the summer season, but my first full sports season was the fall sports season.

During that particular season, I covered a football team that was "in transition."

Having graduated many senior leaders and having lost a high-profile transfer, the Chucks knew they were in for a transition year. But the team finished a successful campaign despite a record that may indicate otherwise.

The Chucks fought hard through their trials and tribulations and came out a winner in the eyes of all the loyal Punxsy fans who attended the games each Friday night.

In transition years, measuring success goes far beyond the team's win-loss record.

Last season, the Pirates finished a dismal 72-90, but any fan who has chosen to stick with the team through thick and thin knows the Battlin' Bucs squad they witnessed at PNC Park this season was a team with more hope and promise than teams in years past.

One of the greatest transitions I was able to make in my year of transitions was the change from following Pittsburgh sports as my “local sports” in the newspaper to following the Chucks closely again and being the one who actually writes the local sports articles.

Instead of trekking to Heinz Field or the old Mellon Arena for games, I now drive up the hill from The Spirit's building to PAHS.

The drive is less stressful, and the ticket prices are much more affordable, but the action in the games is just as exciting, if not more so.

Punxsy's winter sports are at an exciting point heading into their new year already well into their seasons.

The wrestling team recently defeated Clearfield for the first time since 1977 to close out its 2011 home schedule and heads into the new year with confidence following a landmark achievement by Neko Cappella at the Wheel- ing Park Duals where he picked up his 100th victory.

2012 looks promising for the grapplers, as well, with a strong squad and the 100-win milestone just ahead for Seth Spack.

The boys' basketball team has jumped out to a quick start and possesses a 6-2 record after an impressive, long-awaited win at DuBois Central to kick off the new calendar year.

And despite a record that indicates otherwise in a "transition year," the girls' hoops squad has lost some close contests and shows plenty of promise for the new year — and the next few years — on a squad with just one senior and no juniors.

Each team is at a different point in its transition.

The wrestling and boys' basketball teams are seeing the fruits of so many years of hard work to reach this point, and the girls are starting a new phase in their program, but the transition is one that is good for all three teams.

One thing is for certain in the new year, though: Each athlete is doing all he or she can to match the accomplishments of the accomplishments of past PAHS athletes and teams. And transition year or not, it is certainly fun to be along for the ride.

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