Phillips is my first Mountaineer.
So I’ve been writing sports now for much of my 17-year communications career and I came to a realization the other day: I had done countless college signing stories all on the East Coast and all within a few states of West Virginia and my alma mater West Virginia University.
I covered sports in western Pennsylvania, in West Virginia, in North Carolina and on the Eastern Shore.
Sure, I’ve written about WVU teams and athletes. I covered the Mountaineers for more than a year when I worked down the road in Clarksburg, West Virginia. But I had never written about a high school student-athlete who was going to be a Mountaineer.
That all changed Friday when the Salisbury School’s Morgan Phillips signed her letter of intent to attend WVU on a rifle scholarship.
Some of you probably read my feature on Phillips’ incredible accomplishments with a small bore .22 caliber rifle. If you haven’t then go do it now. I can wait.
She is an extremely talented shooter going to compete on the most accomplished team in the country.
When I was a student at WVU, it was the lean years of the football and basketball programs, but you could always count on one thing: We were good at rifle. It became kind of a joke.
“At least we know we’ll win rifle.”
I mean, it wasn’t every year, but they just won three straight titles and the last was the 17th in program history out of the 29 they have competed in.
The program produced 30 Olympians.
I own a WVU rifle T-shirt. Seriously.
They are great and Phillips is now one of them.
And hey, I get to check something off my career checklist and maybe even offer some advice to someone heading to Morgantown:
- Don’t leave your car anywhere that has the word’s “No” and “Parking” in close proximity. It will be gone before you can say Don Knotts Boulevard.
- The Garlic knots at Casa D’ Amici are amazing and a steal at the price.
- Food from the hot dog cart on High Street is not good if you are sober.
- Nothing helps clear your head better than a hike at Coopers Rock.
- And don’t blink because it will be over before you know it.
Speaking of blinking, I did a double take the other day when I saw that U.S Soccer, the governing body for the sport in the United States, announced that children under 10 should not head a soccer ball. They also suggested heading the ball should be limited from ages 11 to 13.
Like many other regulations, this comes on the heels of lawsuits filed in 2014 against U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, the American Youth Soccer Organization, U.S. Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association.
If you know anything about heading a soccer ball, you know that while the ball hits your head, you tense your neck muscles and drive through the ball. You meet the ball. The ball doesn’t meet you when it’s done right.
Turns out kids that young maybe don’t have the strength to keep from absorbing the brunt of the blow from the ball.
I played soccer from the time I was a kid through college, and sometimes now I still pretend I can play at my age. I only had one diagnosed concussion and that came in high school from a forearm shiver delivered by a future college teammate.
That doesn’t mean I didn’t have more.
We didn’t pay attention to stuff like that back then. We didn’t have a trainer on the sidelines and I finished that game.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s what’s wrong with me.
On Twitter @ShawnYonker