Positive feedback re-enforces behavior, boosts self-confidence, promotes development and fosters leadership. That’s why recognition and celebration are so important.

Recognition and celebration are two of the things that the Central Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame does best. So much so that the local hall of fame has made a tradition out of positive re-enforcement.

Recently, the Central Chapter celebrated 22 student-athletes, their accomplishments and local sports in general at its annual Scholastic/Collegiate Athletic Awards ceremony.

Central Chapter of Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame president Dave Bentz. (Provided photo)

“I think it’s important to take time out of our schedules and recognize that this area has one heck of a tradition of achievement and accomplishment in athletics,” said chapter president Dave Bentz. “The ceremony is a way to bring the high school kids together and it’s enjoyable to see them socialize. It’s also keeping our rich tradition of athletic success alive and well.”

“I’m hoping it’s something the student-athletes will remember, and that at some point it will put smiles on their faces,” he said. “Some of them may become teachers, coaches and administrators, and they will be impacting the next generation. It’s a pretty cool, local community-type of event.”

The Central Chapter conducted its 41st Scholastic/Collegiate Athletic Awards ceremony on Sunday, May 19, at Lebanon High School. Surrounded by family, friends and community members, 20 senior scholastic student-athletes and two collegiate senior student-athletes were recognized for their athletic prowess, success in the classroom, leadership skills and involvement in the community.

“Many of them are coming to the end of their academic and athletic careers,” said Bentz. “But they’ve got a life in front of them and there are still going to be opportunities to compete. It’s wonderful to see what their plans are as they enter the next chapter of their lives. The ceremony is a recognition and celebration of the accomplishments and achievements of our local athletes, and I think that’s important and valuable. It’s putting them in the spotlight. It’s putting them in position to have to do some public speaking.”

Each of the 20 scholastic student-athletes present were nominated by their schools’ administrators for the prestigious C.S. “Pop” Kelchner award. The nominated local student-athletes are Grace Francis and Kael Harter of Annville-Cleona, Sierra Margut and Owen Chernich of Cedar Crest, Sara Miller and Jake Williams of ELCO, Zariyah Whigham and Ramon Urena of Lebanon, Keely Bowers and Aidan Mahaffey of Palmyra, Brooke Beamesderfer and Moises Gonzalez of Northern Lebanon, Emma Perkins and Riley Civiello of Conrad Weiser, Catherine Martin and Hannes Buddle of Hershey, Sarah Bradley and Gage Thomas of Milton Hershey, and Chloe Heckman and Nicholas Becker of Tulpehocken.

The male nominees for the C.S. “Pop” Kelchner award recently gathered in the atrium at Lebanon High School. (Provided photo)
The female nominees for the 2024 C.S. “Pop” Kelchner award pose in the atrium at Lebanon High School. The winner of the award will be announced in November. (Provided photo)

The scholastic resumes of those student-athletes will be judged by the Central Chapter’s “Pop” Kelchner committee, and the 57th winner of the award will be announced at the chapter’s induction dinner at Lebanon Valley Exposition Center and Fairgrounds at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11.

“The nomination process can be difficult,” said Bentz. “Not only are they some of the top athletes, they are great kids in terms of character. They’re also leaders in school and in academics. They’re not necessarily the premiere athletes from their respective schools. Keep in mind that these are student-athletes. Academics play a part in it.

“I think in most years probably 75 percent of the nominees go on to college. In any given year, of the 20 nominees anywhere from 13 to 17 are going to continue their educations. But I can’t say all of them are going to continue to play sports.”

Also honored at the recent scholastic/collegiate athletic awards ceremony were Palmyra graduate Lauren Wadas, a senior member of the Northwestern field hockey team, and Annville-Cleona graduate Tyler Long, a senior member of the Mount St. Mary’s baseball team. Wadas and Long were presented with the Henry L. Wilder Memorial Award for their athletic and academic achievements at the collegiate level.

“The overall mission of the chapter is to recognize the contribution of coaches and athletes who have brought some positive recognition to the area,” Bentz said. “It’s like a living history of sports in the area. I think it’s important not to lose that. When you look at our honorees it’s like a who’s who of local sports history.”

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Jeff Falk is a seasoned journalist based in Lebanon, PA. He's a graduate of Cedar Crest High School, Penn State University, and a lifelong resident of Lebanon, born and raised. Currently, he is a feature writer for Engle Publishing in Lancaster, the editor of LebCoSports.com, sports director at WLBR...