PUNXSUTAWNEY — After a two-week voting period and more than 2,000 votes cast between the two genders, two seniors stood out among the rest according to the public's selection of The Punxsutawney Spirit's first-ever Fall Sports Most Valuable Players.
Shawnna Crago, a volleyball player who helped the Lady Chucks win their sixth district title in a row, and A.J. Meterko, a cross country runner who finished second at districts and earned his third consecutive trip to states, were selected as the two 2010 winners.
Both were pretty surprised that they were chosen by the public vote, which ended with nearly 1,200 tallies for the 10 girls from five girls' fall sports and almost 900 tallies for the eight boys from four boys' fall sports.
"It's a great honor. I still can't believe it right now," Crago said. "As soon as I found out, I was filled with excitement. I can't thank everybody enough about it. It's awesome."
"I really didn't expect it. It's an honor and privilege," Meterko said. "It's always nice to be selected over all the other boy athletes. There's a great group of kids there who are really talented in their respective sports."
Crago led the Lady Chucks in both kills (220) and blocks (64). She was a powerful force from the middle hitter position for Punxsy, which finished the season with a 16-2 record and advanced to states for the sixth year in a row.
"Like the guys, every girl was an amazing athlete," Meterko said. "Shawnna really is a phenomenal athlete in her sport. She really deserved it, not that anyone else didn't. But she really stood out."
Crago edged out girls' soccer standout and senior Timi Shiock, the team's goalkeeper for the past four years, in the public vote. Girls' golf senior Jordan McGee was voted third.
"For me, I feel like any girl on the (ballot) could have won," Crago said. "I just think it's a very big honor that people believed in me and thought of me."
Meterko had a solid career with the Chucks and finished with a bang by nearly claiming the District IX Class AAA Individual title in 2010. His second-place time of 17:27 at districts improved to 17:26 at states the next week — good enough for 114th place out of the best 283 runners in the state.
"I follow what my coach tells me to do. I conduct myself in a positive manner," Meterko said, trying to figure out why he was the boys' top vote-getter. "I try to be a leader for the other members of the team."
Meterko earned a few more votes than senior football player Ian Weaver, who led the Punxsy defense from the inside linebacker position. Senior forward Kody Young — whose game-winning goal sent the Chucks to the district title game in boys' soccer — finished third after votes were tabulated.
"Every time I looked in the newspaper, (A.J.) was the star for the cross country team," Crago said. "It's a really big honor for him. He's just a fantastic athlete and a good person."
Both Crago and Meterko received personalized plaques after becoming the first-ever award recipients.
After such a great reception from voters, The Spirit will continue to conduct MVP votes by the public for the Winter and Spring athletic seasons in order to continue honoring the athletes. In no way are The Spirit's MVP awards associated with the school's MVP selections, which are usually selected by the players and coaches of each respective sport.