The 2018-19 high school winter sports season was tremendously successful for Elizabethtown. All but one Bears team finished at least second in their respective section. That makes it all the more difficult to select winners for The Elizabethtown Advocate’s now-annual seasonal sports awards.
Outstanding Girls Athlete: Marena Lonardi, girls basketball
What more can be said about Lonardi’s unparalleled high school career? This season was arguably her best. She won the L-L League scoring title with an average of just over 21 points per game. She was a first-team Section Two All-Star, the third time she’s been recognized. She passed the 1,000-point mark and eventually broke the all-time program scoring record, finishing the year with 1,359 career points, doing so despite missing most of her sophomore year and three games this season due to injury. And most importantly, she helped lead the Lady Bears to their first section title in 15 years and their second straight trip to the state playoffs.
Honorable mentions: Bella Albino, rifle; Lexi Fink, swimming; Katelyn Garman, bowling; Sydney Pierson, girls basketball; Gabby Walsh, swimming
Outstanding Boys Athlete: Larry Locker, boys basketball
Lonardi’s accolades are breathtaking, but we can’t forget about Locker’s either. He was tops in Section Two and fourth in the L-L League in scoring at just over 19 points per game (his 219 made field goals were by far the most in the league as well). He got his second straight first-team honor for Section Two All-Stars and his third overall. He joined the career 1,000-point club in mid-January and set the new all-time mark shortly thereafter, eventually concluding his high school tenure with 1,268. But it was his postseason heroics that really shined through; Locker scored a game-winning layup late in the L-L Quarterfinals against Lampeter-Strasburg, then sank another buzzer-beater just a few days later in the first round of districts against Shippensburg to send the Bears to states for the first time since 2009.
Honorable mentions: Ben Azzalina, swimming; Elijah Eberly, boys basketball; Cam Olson, wrestling; Cole Rice, wrestling; Matt Risbon, rifle
Outstanding Girls Senior: Sydney Pierson, girls basketball
The other half of the Lady Bears’ senior leadership duo, Pierson played in every game this season, carrying the team while Lonardi was out during the first few games. She scored 9.5 points per game, joining Lonardi on the first-team for Section Two All-Stars, and finished with 820 career points. She also notched too many double-doubles to count, along with her first career triple-double against Lebanon early in February, the game that clinched the section title for E-Town.
Honorable mentions: Abby Alspaugh, swimming; Abby Chaffins, bowling; Katelyn Garman, bowling; Elizabeth Vuxta, bowling
Outstanding Boys Senior: Cam Olson, wrestling
Elizabethtown’s wrestling team was marred by inconsistency for much of the year, but you wouldn’t know it from watching Olson. He had a record of 29-15 to lead the Bears, medaling in each of the team’s four individual tournaments and getting named to the honorable mentions list on a stacked Section Two All-Star team. While he initially came up just a bit short of advancing past sectionals, he was able to get an opportunity to compete at regionals for districts, the lone member of the Bears to do so.
Honorable mentions: Patrick Hoffmaster, bowling; Amos Kollie, boys basketball; Stuart Readinger, swimming; Matt Risbon, rifle; Dylan Sweger, boys basketball
Outstanding Girls Underclassman: Gabby Walsh, swimming
Walsh was solid during her freshman year, but she was electric at times as a sophomore. She nabbed 10 individual victories and was apart of 9 winning relay teams across the team’s regular season meets, second to only junior Lexi Fink on the girls side. She finished sixth in the 100-yard backstroke at leagues, qualifying her way to districts for the second straight time.
Honorable mentions: Rachel Broomell, rifle; Sierra Kapcsos, swimming; Eryn Moore, bowling; Ainsley Raybold, girls basketball; Carly Sedun, girls basketball
Outstanding Boys Underclassman: Ben Azzalina, swimming
It’s fair to say that Azzalina carried the boys team this season. His 14 individual wins during the regular season were the most of anyone on both the boys and girls teams (he and Fink were tied in overall wins when relays are added to the total). After finishing third in the 50-yard freestyle and fourth in the 100-yard backstroke at leagues, he took 11th and ninth in those events at districts, the best of the three Elizabethtown swimmers who got that far.
Honorable mentions: Sam Azzalina, swimming; Cole Ginder, rifle; Wyatt Mummau, wrestling; Luke Pierson, boys basketball; Riley Runnels, swimming
Coach of the Year: John Myers, girls basketball and Rocky Parise, boys basketball
Boys Team of the Year: Boys basketball
Girls Team of the Year: Girls basketball
It’s near impossible to choose between Myers and Parise, so why not pick both? Myers helped guide the Lady Bears, made up of a large group of sophomores and freshmen outside of Lonardi and Pierson, to the Section Two title, the first for the program since 2004. While they bowed out of the L-L playoffs after a loss to Lancaster Mennonite, they then pulled off an outstanding comeback win in the first round of districts vs. South Western to clinch a berth in states; coupled with last year’s win, it’s the first time that the Lady Bears have made it there in consecutive seasons.
Meanwhile, Parise entered the year with a Bears team that had gone 15-29 during his first two seasons as head coach. This year was far different. Elizabethtown finished second in Section Two (the lone team to beat champion Warwick in league play), qualifying for the L-L playoffs for the first time since 2013. The Bears proceeded to make it to the semifinals with a win over ELCO and an upset over the league’s top team, Lampeter-Strasburg. In districts (they had again last been there in 2013), they shocked Shippensburg on a buzzer-beater to clinch their first state playoff berth since 2009, later losing in the next round to eventual champion Lower Dauphin. The Bears nearly won the first state playoff game in program history as well, barely falling to Greater Johnstown in overtime.
Coaching honorable mentions: Chad Houck, swimming; David Reinfried, rifle; Mike Sernoffsky, wrestling; Frank Telenko, bowling
Boys team runner-up: boys swimming
Girls team runners-up: girls bowling, girls swimming