Chatham News

Penn-Trafford sophomore Francesca Ponziani receives the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award from Chatham University

By: Amanda Leff Ritchie, Senior Public Relations Specialist
February 10, 2012

 PITTSBURGH (February 10, 2012)… Today at Chatham University’s 17th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWISD) celebration, Penn-Trafford student Francesca Ponziani received the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award in the sophomore category. The award, which is presented to an area sophomore, junior, senior, and collegiate female athlete of distinction, is named in honor of a former Chatham athletic director who dedicated 34 years to achieving greater awareness and recognition of women’s collegiate athletics.

Each year, Chatham gives this award as a celebration of the accomplishments of regional female high school and college student athletes who make positive contributions in the classroom, on the playing field, and in the community. Andrew Stockey, WTAE-TV anchor and sports reporter, served as Master of Ceremonies, and sports reporter Lacee Collins, who covers the Pirates, Penguins, and high school football for ROOT SPORTS, gave the keynote address.

Ms. Ponziani plays softball while maintaining an impressive 4.5 GPA at Penn-Trafford. Nominated by Kerry Hetrick, Ms. Ponziani is ranked number one in her class of nearly 350 students. Her primary positions on the softball team are pitcher, second base, and outfield. In addition to playing on the Penn-Trafford varsity team, Ms. Ponziani practices several times per week with her travel team, the Pittsburgh Lady Bulldogs, and she hopes to continue playing softball at the collegiate level.

Ms. Ponziani’s talents and interests also include Tae Kwon Do, in which she is working toward her third degree black belt, and Haidong Gumdo, the art of Korean sword fighting, in which she has a black belt. She also dedicates much of her time to community service – serving as a mentor for a baseball league for people with disabilities and is involved with Penn-Trafford’s community action program, through which she enjoyed working with Toys for Tots this past holiday season. Ms. Ponziani plays clarinet for Penn-Trafford’s symphonic band and is a member of the school’s French Club and Book Club.

In 2010, she received an award for mathematics, placing her in the United States Achievement Academy. Ms. Ponziani plans to major in mathematics with a concentration in actuarial science or accounting.

Other winners of the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award include Chelsia Poole, a Penn-Trafford junior who plays basketball and volleyball and runs cross country and track; Alexis M. Concordia, a Shady Side Academy senior who plays field hockey and lacrosse, in addition to being a member of the swim team; and Anna Albi, a Carnegie Mellon University sophomore who plays soccer.

Chatham also honored Lori Poe, who coaches cross-country, indoor track, and track and field at Chartiers Valley, with the Outstanding Coach Award. Winners are selected by an honorary committee.

NGWSD began in 1987 in commemoration of Olympic volleyball player Flo Hyman for her athletic achievements and her work to assure equality for women’s sports. Hyman died of Marfan Syndrome in 1986 while competing in a volleyball tournament in Japan. Since that time, NGWSD has evolved into a day to acknowledge the past and recognize current sports achievements, the positive influence of sports participation, and the continuing struggle for equality and access for women in sports.

About Chatham University
Chatham University prepares students from around the world to help develop solutions to some of the world’s biggest challenges. Consistently ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review, Chatham University is also ranked in the top five percent of graduate-intensive institutions nationally and experienced the fastest-growing enrollment in the Pittsburgh region over the past decade. Founded in 1869, Chatham University includes the Shadyside Campus, with the historic 39-acre Woodland Road arboretum and Chatham Eastside facility; and the 388-acre Eden Hall Campus north of Pittsburgh. For more information, call 800-837-1290 or visit

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