Tuesday's ceremony did not honor the best athletes in Washington County. Rather, it honored those who overcame difficult obstacles, worked harder than most, accepted their limitations or circumstances with understanding and dignity, and made an impact on and off the playing field that no stat sheet could ever capture.
The ceremony honored those like Smithsburg's Jason Cross, diagnosed with aplastic anemia in August 2003.
Cross endured chemotherapy and a painful bone marrow transplant in which his brother, Zach, was the donor. Cross' rehabilitation, which took months, was completed in time for him to be a part of the Leopards' sixth-place team finish in Class 1A at the Maryland state cross country meet last November.
"Just being in the hospital for 100 days and not being able to do what I want, it taught me you have to take advantage of the opportunities you have," Cross said following the ceremony. "I do that every day with my friends."
"Jason being here is a miracle," Smithsburg cross country coach Ray Shriver told the gathering, adding later, "It just makes me humble to be here knowing what he's been through."
It honored those like St. James' Robyn Levitan, a soccer and lacrosse player who ruptured her spleen and injured her wrist in a Dec. 26, 2004, automobile accident. Levitan diligently worked her way back into playing shape for lacrosse season while helping coach the team's younger players, and eventually reclaimed her starting position before mononucleosis sidelined her for the rest of the year.
"We're going into the playoffs this weekend, and a lot of the players on the team have said they're playing for her," girls lacrosse coach Lisa Brunnabend said. "That's how much of an inspiration she's been to them."
It honored those like North Hagerstown wrestling manager Keleigh Stonebreaker, born with a hereditary liver disorder that required two liver transplants in 2004. Complications from the procedures led to two cardiac arrests and left her in the hospital for 123 days, but she was back in November doing her duties for the Hubs.
"If I had a team full of kids like her, we'd win the state championship every year," North coach Greg Slick said.
Cross, Levitan and Stonebreaker, along with the other 11 award winners, shared what Wright called "the power of attitude."
"Your attitude will enable you to look at life and possess it," Wright said.