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Chester County Press

The spectacular rise of an athletic program

05/27/2014 03:45PM ● By Acl

On weekend afternoons throughout the school year, the playing fields at Avon Grove High School are a busy and colorful acreage of activity, given over wholly to young athletes involved in the pursuit of excellence. 

The immediate measure of success for any high school athlete is most realized by the heights to which they aspire to in head-to-head competition, but in order to see the truest picture of high school sports, visit the playing fields of Avon Grove when there are no games; when there is no one applauding; when it's just teams and coaches going over routines and fundamentals, taught with the repetitive similarity of a skipped phonograph record. 

From the synthetic turf of the football field to the women's softball diamond and in the many pitches and playing areas in between, participating in sports at Avon Grove has become a second classroom for hundreds of young athletes, and in the past few months, the efforts of many of them have begun to quickly turn the school from an athletic also-ran to one of the most successful sports programs in Chester County:

 * On the right arm of sophomore pitching phenom Maggie Balint and the resiliency of a close- knit ball club, the women's softball team have gone 17-4 on the 2014 campaign, and on May 23, they defeated Neshaminy 2-1 on a dramatic, last-inning comeback, to earn a visit to the state championship tournament, the first in the school's history. 

・ On May 24, McKenna Keegan won the gold in her 400-meter race at the PIAA Class AAA Track and Field State Championships, with a winning time of 55:15.  Moriah Fitzgerald won the gold in the pole vault at the District I Girls' Class AAA Track and Field Championships on May 17 and 18.

・ On May 22, backed by the play of Tanner Peck, Jake Parola, Bryce Reid, Will Schreiner and Eric Russo, the Avon Grove boys' lacrosse team defeated Bishop Shanahan 9-3 to earn their second consecutive District 1 Championship. 

・ New head varsity football coach Harry O'Neill, formerly the defensive coordinator at Unionville, has brought a new sense of passion, unity and ownership, one that not only hopes to invigorate the program, but recruit the energy of the entire community, beginning with the area youth leagues and coaches. 

“Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work,” Vince Lombardi said. Seen after school on the playing fields of Avon Grove High School, individual commitment to a group effort is also what makes a school work.