Smithsonian forum features EHS standouts

ELKINS – Three of Elkins High School’s finest athletes spoke about what it takes to achieve success at the next level during a panel discussion Monday at the Randolph County Community Arts Center.

The panel was the third of six events the RCCAC has scheduled in conjunction with “Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America,” the newest Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit to take up residence at the center.

Speakers included former West Virginia University athletes Nick Patella and Letitia Propst, along with current EHS senior Samantha Hall, who has won seven state swimming championships.

Former EHS player and coach Chad Ware served as moderator for the discussion. He asked the athletes a wide range of questions ranging from their childhood inspirations, to how they dealt with injuries, to the amount of parental support it takes to reach the next level.

“This exhibit is significant because it makes the public aware of the rich history that Randolph County sports have,” Ware told The Inter-Mountain. “There are a lot of people who don’t know about the history. There have been some impressive people who have gone on to play in the professional ranks. We have state champions, we have people who are going to go on to become Division I athletes, it’s that good lineage thing that people can see up close and personal.”

Patella played basketball for WVU from 2002 to 2005. While at EHS, he lettered in golf, baseball and basketball for three seasons, earning a multitude of all-state and all-conference honors in all three sports. He currently coaches golf at West Virginia Wesleyan College.

“This exhibit is great,” Patella said. “It’s great to come back and see what the community has put up. There are so many athletes here that I have never seen or read about. It’s an awesome exhibit. It’s an honor to come home and be a part of this.”

Patella told the group he became inspired to dedicate his life to athletics after watching Kentucky play North Carolina in basketball on television when he was a child.

“God gave me a lot of natural talent,” Patella said. “I had the opportunity to choose between basketball, baseball and golf. I was lucky to have all those opportunities. I stuck with my gut and pursued basketball, after seeing it on TV when I was 9 years old. I grew up in the 1990s, it was the Michael Jordan era.”

Propst was a three-time state champion in track and cross country at EHS. She won state titles in the 800-meter, 1600-meter and 3200-meter runs as a senior for the Lady Tigers. She was best in the state in cross country during the 2007, 2008 and 2010 seasons.

During the discussion, Propst told the group that achieving success is nearly impossible without a good support system. Patella and Hall also agreed.

“Having support from your parents and grandparents is absolutely instrumental,” Propst said. “They have to make a lot of sacrifices, too. It’s every weekend at the ballpark and taking time out of their busy schedule. My parents helped me have a good experience. If not for them, I would not have had such a good experience or even enjoy sports.”

Hall holds seven state titles, including three consecutive state championships in the 50-yard freestyle. As a junior, she broke a state record as well, turning in a time of 24.01 to capture the 50 freestyle. To go along with the athletic achievements, she also carries a cumulative GPA of 3.7.

Hall, who was recently named a USA Swimming Scholastic All-American, told the group it takes good time management skills to achieve balance between athletics and academics.

“I sometimes find myself struggling with time management,” Hall said. “My mom pushes me a lot. To swim, you have to get good grades. I try to push myself, and time management is essential.”

“Hometown Teams” interweaves images and text with almost 70 artifacts, video, audio and other interactive elements that present perspectives on sports in popular culture, as well as local sports traditions. It offers information about mascots, marching bands, cheerleaders, game day traditions, tailgating, player/coach relationships, sports equipment, stadiums, rivalries, and athletes who broke racial, gender or physical barriers in sports. The growth of alternative and extreme sports also is explored.

Next Monday, Oliver Luck, director of athletics at WVU, will be the guest speaker at the RCCAC at 3 p.m.

The exhibit is free and open to the public. Hours are Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional information about “Hometown Teams” is available by calling the RCCAC at 304-637-2355.