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Blankenship, Linn, West, Cross Selected for OVAC Hall of Fame

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Three highly-successful coaches — two who made their mark in girls’ basketball and one in football — and one of the most recognizable three-sport officials, are the latest additions to the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Hall of Fame’s Class of 2016. Girls’ basketball coaches Stan Blankenship of John Marshall and Dave Linn of Buckeye Trail; football coach Tom West of Valley and baseball/basketball/volleyball official Andy Cross will be inducted into the OVAC “Hall” on Saturday, Aug. 13 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. Previously named to the Class of 2016 as athletes were Jay Handlan of Triadelphia (1940s); Eddie Becker of Wheeling and Neil Habig of Wheeling Central (1950s); Robbie Munn of Bridgeport and Ben Wiley of Powhatan (1960s); Jim Wood of Steubenville Catholic and Jim Woofter of Oak Glen (1970s); Kim Augur of East Liverpool and Dave Delande of St. Clairsville (1980s); Jodi Bates of Meadowbrook and Matt Powell of Barnesville (1990s); Zach Amedro of John Marshall and Kacie Vavrek of Bellaire (2000s); Bob Koch (OVAC Family); John Nese (OVAC Contributor); and Jimmy Mountain (Media). The OVAC Hall of Fame, sponsored by Robinson Auto Group, and the OVAC Museum are located at WesBanco Arena. In two weeks, the “Legends” of OVAC member schools will complete the announcement of this year’s honorees. Here’s a look at this week’s selections: Stan Blankenship (Nicholas County High School, Class of 1968). He put together a resume unrivaled by anyone in the girls’ basketball coaching ranks, compiling a record of 542-240 during a career that began in 1979 and continued until his retirement in 2011. Those lofty numbers make him the all-time winningest coach in girls’ hoops in both the Ohio Valley and the entire state of West Virginia. Blankenship’s Lady Monarchs reached the pinnacle in 1982 when they won the West Virginia Class AAA State Championship with All-American/OVAC Hall of Famer Amy Gamble as the star player. He also led JMHS to West Virginia Class AAA runner-up finishes in 1992 and 1994. Under his guidance, JMHS won 18 sectional titles and nine regional crowns. The Lady Monarchs also won nine OVAC championships under Blankenship’s watch (1981, ‘82, ‘83, ‘84, ‘85, ‘91, ‘94, 2000, 2002). The five straight titles from 1981-85 marks the longest consecutive string of girls’ conference crowns recorded to date. Blankenship saw significant changes in high school hoops during his coaching career including the institution of the three-point line; the use of a smaller basketball and the move of girls’ basketball in West Virginia from fall to winter. He coached an amazing 40 players who went on to play college basketball after graduating from JMHS. He also coached in the OVAC Samuel A. Mumley All-Star Classic several times and received the OVAC’s Richard Saffield Girls’ Basketball Coaches Award in 2005. Blankenship move to the area from Nicholas County where he was a multi-sport standout in high school. That continued at the collegiate level when he attended West Virginia Wesleyan College, graduating in 1973 after amassing an unheard-of 13 varsity letters (four in track, four in cross country, four in basketball and one in football). Not surprisingly, he was inducted into the West Virginia Wesleyan Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 Dave Linn (Zane Trace High School, Class of 1971). Linn made his mark as the Buckeye Trail High girls’ basketball coach for a decade (1976-86), including am amazing four-year run of appearances in the OHSAA State Tournament (1978-81). Trail’s 1978 squad posted a 22-1 overall record, falling to Smithville (41-38) in the Class A state semifinals. The 1979 team reached the pinnacle, defeating Fort Loramie (56-38) in the state semifinals and then downing Holgate (51-32) in the Class A championship game to complete a 23-2 record season. The Lady Warriors weren’t finished, returning to the “Final Four” in 1980 where the beat Portsmouth Clay (59-44) in the semifinals before falling to Mansfield St. Peter’s (61-57 in overtime) in the title game for a final 26-1 record; and then making it back to the championship game again in 1981, topping Edgerton (71-58) in the semis and losing another heartbreaker (54-52) to Anna in the finals for a 23-4 final record. During his 10 years as the Trail girls’ coach, he compiled an impressive 211-37 record, an 85 percent victory ratio. Trail also won the OVAC Class A girls’ championship in 1984 under Linn. After some time off, he had a 12-year run as the Trail boys’ coach (1999-2010), amassing 119 wins including three or four sectional championships and a district title/regional appearance in 2009. Linn-coached boys’ teams won the Pioneer Valley Conference title outright in 2005 and shared the crown with Frontier and Shenandoah in 2010. The 2005 team also won the OVAC Class 2-A crown. During his career, Linn was selected “Coach of the Year” at various times in the Eastern District and District 12 and he was selected to coach in the OHSBCA North-South All-Star Game in 1982. A charter member of the East Guernsey/Buckeye Trail Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996, he’s served as the District 12 Basketball Coaches Association Secretary/Treasurer and as the Pepsi/District 12 All-Star Game Director for many years. A graduate of Rio Grande College, he was District 12’s selection for the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Honor in 2013 and was inducted into the District 12 Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2015. Tom West (Mannington High School, Class of 1957) When he made the move to to coach and teach at Valley High, West did so for the long haul. After four years at Midview High in Grafton, Ohio, he came to Pine Grove where he became a coaching institution, guiding the Lumberjacks’ football team for a total of 36 years over two terms – his first from 1971-2000 and then, after a seven-year absence, he returned from 2008-2013. During his 40 years as a head coach, he amassed a record of 242-176-1, including a 223-151 mark at Valley. West-coached Valley teams made the West Virginia Class A playoffs 10 straight years from 1991-200 and finished as the state runner-up five times (1993, ’94, ’95, ’96 and ’98). His 1993-94-95 teams all went undefeated in the regular season. The Lumberjacks won OVAC championships in 1995 and ’97 and captured the Mason-Dixon Conference crown 11 times (1979, 85, 87, 89, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96 and 97) West also served as an assistant basketball coach from 1971-83. The football field at VHS is named Tom West Field in his honor. West received his bachelor’s degree in Education from Fairmont State College in 1961 and his master’s degree in Administration from Akron University in 1971. He began his teaching career in Midview in 1961 where he was an assistant basketball and football coach and then the head football coach from 1967-70 before taking the job at Valley High. Andy Cross (Morgantown High School, Class of 1972). One of the more recognizable officials of the Ohio Valley, Cross enjoyed a remarkable career calling the action in baseball, basketball and later in volleyball. His officiating career began as a student at Bethany College when he decided to follow in the footsteps of his father who had worked football, basketball and baseball games in the Morgantown area, with his young son accompanying him to many of the events. Cross spent 36 years on the baseball diamond. Among the highlights were 23 regional and 13 state tournament assignments in Ohio and 10 regional and 13 state tournaments in West Virginia. He also umpired the Mizuno All-Star Series in Ohio eight times. The final game of his career came in the 2013 West Virginia State Tournament. His basketball officiating spanned 31 years. On the Ohio side, he had 13 regional and three state assignments in girls’ hoops and seven regional assignments in boys’ hoops while in West Virginia, he worked nine regionals and three state tournaments for the girls and 12 regionals and two state tournaments for the boys. Cross was the 2009 recipient of the OVAC’s Robert Dawson Officials Award presented at the OVAC Samuel A. Mumley All-Star Basketball Classic and was honored with the District 12 Basketball Coaches Association “Official of the Year” award in 1997. In the latter stages of his officiating career, he added volleyball to the mix and worked eight years, including many games at the tournament level in both states. In addition to his on-field/court work, Cross also served as president, secretary, interpreter and class instructor of the Ohio Valley Board of Baseball Umpires and vice-president and interpreter of the Ohio Valley Board of Basketball Officials. He was also a member of the National Federation of Officials (NFOA) in both West Virginia and Ohio. Cross was inducted into the OHSAA Officials Hall of Fame in 2010.
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