CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Melissa Case sees the support that George Washington athletes have for one another every season.
"At regionals this year, at the last minute one of our sprint relay boys was sick and didn't get there and we had to put our backup guy in and he got sick and we went to our third-string who was a freshman and he hopped up and swam the fastest time he's ever swam in his life,'' said Case, GW's boys and girls swimming coach.
"The one thing I'm so proud of is I've seen a lot of meltdowns at the state meet, teams and individuals, and my kids just don't do that. If one person falls apart they rally around them and the other kids swim even faster. They feel a pride in representing GW.''
The camaraderie that permeates throughout GW's athletic programs allowed the Patriots to sweep to their fourth straight Class AAA Gazette Excellence in Sports Award, which is given to West Virginia's top overall high school athletic sports program in the classification.
The Patriots scored 59 points to beat out Morgantown, which finished as runner-up for the second straight year, with 543/4 points.
The standings, compiled by the Gazette since the 1996-97 school year, are based on a system that awards points (8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1) to the top eight finishers in each of the 19 sports sanctioned by the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission.
GW won four state titles (boys and girls swimming, boys tennis and volleyball) while the girls soccer team was state runner-up. The Patriots also had top-four finishes in football, boys soccer and golf and scored in girls tennis and cheerleading.
"I think it takes the support of all the teams, and GW definitely has that,'' Case said. "I don't think any of us as a minor sport feel neglected. I think there's an overall support for each other. I know the school and students are very proud of having the GEISA.''
For the third year in a row, GW scored in 10 of the 19 sports and easily had the best balance between boys and girls sports. The Patriots scored in five of each, and GW was the only school to finish in the top five when the standings are broken down into boys and girls sports. GW was second in both as the boys produced 32 points and the girls accounted for 27. (See chart, above.)
"It all goes back to the kids,'' said GW volleyball coach Missy Smith. "All of them. You can't win that award with the girls or the boys being good. They put the time in.
"I see all the other teams working hard in the offseason. It shows when they compete because they do well. No matter what they're doing, whether it's athletics or academics, they want to be the best and put the time in, that's their mental attitude.''
GW has built strong contenders year in and year out in several sports.
The Patriots won their third straight state championship in boys swimming and fourth in the last five years while the girls swimming team finally captured a title after finishing runner-up six times in the previous eight years. The boys tennis squad took its sixth championship in the last nine seasons and the volleyball team won its third title in eight years. The football squad has been runner-up in 2008 and 2011 and has competed in 11 playoff games in the past four years.
"I've been nothing but blessed to have kids who are talented, but motivated to win,'' said Case. "These kids make my job look easy. Not only am I telling them how it's going to be, but [their teammates are] telling them. They understand what has to be done. You can hear it from a lot of kids from other sports, we have basketball and football players, and they all know what it takes to really be at the top.''
"They're all motivated,'' added GW boys tennis coach Chris Luckett. "These kids are good athletes. They just want to win. They don't like to lose.''
GW will all receive a permanent plaque to signify its achievement as well as custody for a year of a traveling trophy.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at tatkin...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4811.
Class AAA GEISA leaders 2012-13
1. George Washington 59
2. Morgantown 543/4