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Hamburg Area School District was recently awarded by the Berks County Interscholastic Athletic Association with a second place overall award for sportsmanship.
The boys and girls soccer teams were awardedfirst overall in league sportsmanship, the undefeated girls track team ranked second, and field hockey ranked fourth.
In the past 15 years the school has ranked first or second five times and the school has never been ranked lower than seventh.
“Being recognized by our peers as one of the most sportsmanlike athletic programs is extremely important to our school, and it should be equally important to our community,” said Aaron Menapace, who has been the school’s athletic director since 1999 and also served as offensive coordinator for a six-game stretch for the football team in 2006. “It says a lot about the people we have involved.”
Some people have been calling this a sympathy vote for the district, according to Menapace.
“There are some people out there that think the vote goes to the team with the most losses - a sympathy vote, if you will,” he said,“Those people truly don’t understand sport, or this award. It is disappointing to hear people speak that way.”
Menapace feels as though the school and its athletes have made strides in recent years in all levels of sport.
“I believe we’ve made significant progress on many levels, particularly in the past decade,” he said.“There will, however, always be room for improvement. Currently, we have some wonderful student-athletes, kids who are ideal role models for any student in our district. Those that achieve at high levels academically, athletically and in our community stand out most.”
Christopher Zalasky, boys soccer coach and a fourth grade teacher at Tilden Elementary, was enthusiastic about the recognition.
“I feel this is a fantastic honor. It proves that we do things the ‘right way’ at Hamburg. Representing your school and community with pride is a staple of the boys soccer program,” said Zalasky
Zalasky, a Kutztown University graduate, has been teaching at Tilden for 11 years, and has also been involved with the boys soccer program during that time; he started out as assistant at the junior high level, worked his way up to head junior high coach, junior varsity head coach, and finally the high school’s head coach.
In a world of sports where honor is not too prevalent today, according to Zalasky, the boys soccer team and the whole school for that matter have done an exceptional job.
“The majority of our players come from great families. They were brought up in homes that were taught to respect others,” he said.“I have not had one complaint this past season about how our fans act or behave. That cannot be said of all schools. Kids are very influential and when these character traits are shared at home it carries over to school and our team. This is reinforced constantly as a coaching staff. If they are not able to live up to this high standard on our team, there is discipline that is enforced.”