PITTSBURGH (February 8, 2013)… Today at Chatham University’s 18th Annual National Girls and Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) celebration, Jennifer McMichael, who is the head coach of cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field at Ringgold High School, received the Outstanding Coach Award. The award honors a coach who positively affects their school and their athletes’ experiences.
McMichael is a graduate of Ringgold who held a long-standing record that was recently broken by her own daughter, Kirsten McMichael. Kirsten was also honored today at the celebration, winning the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award in the sophomore category. This is the first time a mother-daughter duo has been honored at the event.
Nominated by Ringgold Athletic Director Ronald McMichael, Jennifer McMichael has been coaching at Ringgold for 13 years. She started as the assistant boys/girls distance coach for outdoor track and then went on to found the middle school cross-country program, offering her time as head coach. With the establishment of this feeder program, the high school cross-country team was strengthened.
For years, McMichael worked to implement an indoor track and field team, all the while she volunteered her time taking athletes to indoor meets until she finally succeeded in the program’s implementation four years ago.
After coaching middle school cross-country for three years, she was asked to move up to the varsity level, where she soon became the head cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track and field coordinator. Now in her second year of being the head coach of these three teams, McMichael has already had three state qualifiers and more than two-dozen school records.
Perhaps one of her greatest attributes as a coach is her ability to recruit student athletes, says Ronald McMichael. Her talent in this area has allowed all three programs to grow tremendously in her short time as the head coach. Each team has grown at least 50 percent – and the indoor track team has grown by more than an impressive 100 percent.
Her key message to her teams is that individual improvement will lead to overall team success. The importance that she places on individual athletes’ personal goals and overall contribution to the team has generated the opportunities for Ringgold student athletes to compete on the college level after high school.
McMichael has one of the highest winning percentages among all Ringgold athletic programs. Ronald McMichael says Jennifer has developed the cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field programs as model athletic programs for the Ringgold School District.
Also at Chatham University’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day celebration, five high school and collegiate female athletes of distinction received the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award, 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 evening news anchor and sports director, served as Master of Ceremonies. Patty Paytas, senior vice president of community and public affairs for the Pittsburgh Pirates as well as the executive director of Pirates Charities, gave the keynote speech, which focused on challenges women face as professionals in the sports industry.
Today’s winners of the Patience Blayden Spirit of Sport Award include Kirsten McMichael, a sophomore at Ringgold High School who runs cross-country and indoor and outdoor track and field, Jordan Busshaus, a junior at Hampton High School who is on the basketball and dance teams; Julie Hartz, a senior swimmer at Penn-Trafford High School; Angela Heintz, a senior at Seton-LaSalle Catholic High School who plays volleyball and basketball; and Rachel Blonski, a senior softball player at Carlow University. All 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, founded in 1869, is located in the vibrant Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa. Preparing students from around the world, Chatham’s enrollment throughout the past decade was the fastest growing in the Pittsburgh region. With enrollment of more than 2,300 students and consisting of an undergraduate women’s college and co-educational graduate and online programs, Chatham has consistently been ranked among the top master’s level institutions in the Northeast by U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Offering challenging academics and innovative programming in the fields of sustainability and the environment, health and lab sciences, creative and liberal arts, and business and entrepreneurship, a Chatham education is designed to meet the needs of tomorrow’s economy, today.
For more information, call 412-365-1139 or visit www.chatham.edu.
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