FOLLANSBEE - Pride in one's school or community was a recurring theme at the annual Follansbee Community Days Dinner Wednesday, as Oliver Luck, athletic director for West Virginia University, spoke about how the school can help to improve the state's image and recognition and several cheerleaders and their coaches who have helped to bring recognition to their community and school.
Luck, a former West Virginia University quarterback and Houston Oiler who returned to his alma mater to serve as athletic director in 2010, said the university's entry into the Big 12 Conference offers an opportunity to change perceptions about the state.
Luck said as a school with an enrollment of more than 30,000 but in a smaller state with few large cities, WVU will have a lot in common with many of its new competitors, including schools from Iowa, Kansas and Oklahoma.
SPECIAL RECOGNITION — Special recognition was given at the Follansbee Community Days dinner Wednesday to Gerald “Peck” Blakley, a 96-year-old World War II veteran, and Follansbee cheerleaders and their coaches for their outstanding achievements. Among those taking part in the event were, from left, front, Kim Santoro Miller, Jaime Andreozzi, Adrienne Stucin and Chris Stucin; and back, guest speaker Oliver Luck, Kathleen Layburn, Iris Ferrell, Shelly Smith, Mecha Sachini-Clark, Sandy Rauschenberg, Blakley and Mayor David Velegol Jr.
He said the new affiliation will bring many visitors to the state, as the University of Oklahoma football team is known to draw as many as 3,500 fans to its away games.
"We have a tremendous opportunity to improve the image of the state and its fan base," he said, noting WVU fans have a reputation for being "a little rough around the edges."
Luck said he's asking all WVU fans to have a "designated greeter" at tailgate parties who can approach fans of the opposing team and, while not denying they expect the Mountaineers to kick their team's butts, invite the visitors to join them for a beer.
The suggestion received applause from many Brooke County residents who attended the dinner at St. Francis Centre.
Luck said he believes the visitors, once welcomed, will fall in love with the state's scenic beauty and recreational opportunities and want to return.
Luck said he will be working to make all of WVU's athletic programs competitive.
"Every time we compete, we're carrying the name of West Virginia," he said.
Receiving recognition for the way in which they've brought positive attention to Follansbee and Brooke County were former Brooke and Follansbee Blue Wave cheerleaders Meredith Stucin, Adrienne Stucin, Mecha Sachini Clark, Jaime Andreozzi and Kimberly Santoro Miller.
Meredith Stucin was a member of four state championship-winning Brooke cheering squads and has been a member of the WVU cheerleading squad since entering the school, where she is preparing for a career in education.
Bobbi Mohrman, head cheering coach and spirit program coordinator for WVU, said Meredith's effervescence often has attracted the attention of camera operators during televised games and her hard-working nature is evident on and off the field. She noted Meredith is working three summer jobs: serving as a lifeguard, teaching cheering camps and donning a hard hat and steel-toed boots for a position at Wheeling-Nisshin.
Adrienne Stucin was a member of Brooke's first state title-winning squad and went on to cheer at WVU, serving as the squad's captain her senior year. Described by Mohrman as "the queen of positive attitude," Stucin also visited the local children's hospital to cheer patients there.
She went on to coach cheering for two years at the high school level and works as a medical device representative for Covidien.
Clark was a member of a Brooke squad that won four regional and four state titles, an undefeated individual competitor for the independent Basic Superstars studio and won five national championships as a member of the University of Louisville cheering squad, has been honored by Cheerleader magazine and appeared with Cirque Du Soleil in a pre-game show for the 2007 Super Bowl.
She has gone on to coach cheerleading at an independent studio.
After serving on the state title-winning Brooke squad, Andreozzi briefly attended Moorhead University, where she was a national champion, before transferring to WVU, where she led the cheerleading squad for three years.
She went on to become a cheerleader for the Baltimore Ravens and has served as that squad's captain for seven years, represented the squad at the Pro Bowl and performed with an Armed Forces overseas tour twice.
She also has lent her time to the Baltimore Children's Hospital and Ronald McDonald House while working in human resources for the Electric Motor Repair Co.
Also a former Brooke cheerleader, Miller cheered for four years at WVU, where she was named to the Athletic Director's Honor Roll every semester, competed in the Collegiate National Cheering Championship in Dallas and went on to lead the Wheeling Park High School cheering squad to 10 consecutive Ohio Valley Athletic Conference titles.
Miller has earned a doctorate in education and has been named a Face of the Future by the Wheeling News-Register for her work in that field, which has included serving as student services director for Ohio County Schools and principal of Woodsdale Elementary School.
Mohrman said Andreozzi and Miller will be inducted to the WVU Alumni Cheerleader Hall of Fame this fall.
Meredith Stucin wasn't able to attend.
In accepting the honors, the four others credited the guidance of their coaches over the years, including those in the Follansbee Blue Wave Football Association.
The Community Days Committee also recognized four women - Shelly Smith, Iris Ferrell, Kathleen Layburn and Sandy Rauschenberg - for their involvement with Blue Wave cheering and other community service.
In addition to serving as a Blue Wave cheering adviser for 23 years, Smith, a lifetime board member of the program, has volunteered as a Sunday school superintendent at Follansbee Methodist Church, is a member of the Community Days Committee and serves dinners for the Follansbee Lions Club.
Ferrell has been a Blue Wave cheering adviser for 13 years, a lifetime board member of the program, 4th Ward councilwoman and Community Days Committee member.
Layburn is a former head adviser for the Blue Waves, and under her leadership, they competed and won awards for cheerleading, dance and spirit at the National Golden Eagle competition.
Rauschenberg served the Blue Waves from 1977 to 2005, working her way up from bantam to head coach, and was president of the Steel Valley Cheering Association for 15 years as well as serving as a cook for the Follansbee Lions Club for 20 years.
Chris Stucin, former head Brooke High School cheerleading coach, also was recognized by the committee as well as the honored cheerleaders. In her 15 years as coach, she led the squad to 11 state championships and 14 regional titles.
She was named West Virginia Coach of the Year by the West Virginia Coaches Association in 1999, received an Ohio Valley Dapper Dan Special Achievement Award and was named to the 2005 Who's Who Among American Teachers.
Each of the coaches was presented the committee's Making a Difference Award and a bouquet of flowers by Mayor David Velegol Jr. on behalf of the committee.