A Memorable Year Covering the Mountaineers

One year ago to the day, I began my journey with West Virginia Illustrated.

As I reflect on my first year covering all things WVU sports, all I can think of is the phrase “time flies when you are having fun.”

And for me, that fun started immediately. I started working for WVI on June 1, 2016, and on June 3, I was already covering my first story. I traveled to Boone County where the WVU men’s basketball was helping with flood relief efforts. Coach Huggins and the Mountaineers joined forces with a few organizations and gave our groceries to families in need or out of work. I showed up about 15 minutes before the event was scheduled to start and the line of cars had already reached the road. In just a few hours, I saw the mutual love for West Virginia and its Mountaineers create an experience that will last a lifetime, not only for those members of the community, but for the players as well.

A few weeks later, I got to experience my first WNBA game live as I paid a visit to the Verizon Center in Washington D.C to catch up with Bria Holmes, former WVU superstar and current member of the Atlanta Dream. The very next day, I met The Logo himself, Jerry West, at his book signing.

As one month on the job rolled around, I had the pleasure of meeting Donna “Memaw” Tucker.  A few weeks prior to her trip to Morgantown, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and her last wish was to see a WVU football game. With time not on her side, Tucker made the trip to Milan Puskar Stadium and spent the day with a group of WVU football players and her family. Three days after her visit to Mountaineer Field, Donna Tucker passed away. It may not have been an actual football game, but it was a truly perfect day spent in her favorite place, and I am forever grateful I had the opportunity to share her story.

Weeks into the football season, I found myself inside county music star Brad Paisley’s tour bus talking about the season opening win over Missouri and growing up a Mountaineer fan.

As the season went on, I had the chance to break down the week ahead for WVU with national analysts. I also received valuable feedback for my career from some of the best in the business.

This past year has not only been full of great experiences for me personally, but it has been a year of great accomplishments for the Mountaineers.

The WVU football team made the program’s first appearance in the Associated Press Top 10 in four years and its 6-0 start was the best in 10 years. It became just the 9th team in WVU history to earn 10 wins in a season. It also produced two 2017 NFL Draft picks in Rasul Douglas and Shelton Gibson, and a handful of others inked undrafted free-agent deals.

Across town at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, it was also a record-setting year for the women’s soccer team. Along with a list of individual honors, the Mountaineers advanced to their first NCAA College Cup, and ended with a National Runner-up finish and a nation-best and program-record 23 wins. It was a season that saw the first ever No. 1 rank, and also saw it last for eight weeks. As that historical season got underway, seniors Kadeshia Buchanan and Ashley Lawrence won Bronze at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games with the Canadian women’s soccer team. Buchanan was also the recipient of the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy.

As the action transitioned from the turf to the hardwood, so did the success. Despite a lack of depth due to injuries, the WVU women’s basketball team fought its way to a Big 12 Conference Championship and the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Senior center Lanay Montgomery became the next Mountaineer taken in the WNBA Draft, she was selected by the Seattle Storm.

The men’s hoops team helped Coach Huggins earn his 800th career win, and it also knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation for the second consecutive year. The Mountaineers saw their season come to a heart-breaking end in the Sweet 16. They finished the season ranked No. 11. For Huggins and company, it was a less than desirable end to the season, but one that left a lot of hope for the future.

In the midst of that NCAA Basketball Tournament, the rifle team continued to dominate as it returned to Morgantown with its 5th straight National Championship. Its very own Ginny Thrasher also won the very first medal awarded at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, a Gold medal for Team USA in the women’s 10m air rifle.

West Virginia native Dylan Cottrell became the first ever WVU wrestler to win a Big 12 title, and gymnast Zaakira Muhammad qualified for the 2017 NCAA National Championships.

Currently, the WVU baseball team is traveling down its own historical road. In April, it made its first ever appearance in the Baseball America Top 25, and was ranked in four of the five national polls. Last week, the Mountaineers run for the conference title ended in the Big 12 semifinal. A few days later, they earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996 and the 12th time in program history.

It was a year that produced so many memorable headlines for the Mountaineers, and through these experiences and the countless others in between, I have come to realize one thing: the bond between WVU athletics and Mountaineer Nation is truly something special.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring you the latest on the Mountaineers for the past year, I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have!

Keep up with my the latest updates on twitter (@AnjelicaT_WVI) and FaceBook.

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