A world-record hurdler from Beaver Falls High School.
The national record-holder for most career soccer goals from Moon.
The national record-holder in the javelin from South Park.
Three national football players of the year from North Hills, Jeannette and Washington.
And Brendan McKay.
Huh? McKay is a baseball pitcher from Blackhawk, only 18 years old and still a few weeks from high school graduation. He is riding an almost surreal consecutive-innings scoreless streak, but does he belong in the same breath with those all-time WPIAL greats, ones who made indelible impressions while they were still in high school? Their feats were of national — and even world — significance.
Does a kid who still hasn’t finished his senior season deserve to be considered among the all-time greats?
“Absolutely,” said Sean Shapert, a 1984 Moon graduate whose 213 career soccer goals is still a national high school record.
Others feel the same way. Shapert, 47, lives in Chicago, works in the health care business and was unaware of McKay’s feats. But, when told McKay was not allowed a run in 65 consecutive innings and that it is the third-longest scoreless streak in U.S. high school baseball history, Shapert was stunned — and more than happy to move over and open a spot on the WPIAL legends bench for McKay.
“He certainly deserves to be considered on the same level of those who accomplished some great things,” said Shapert. “Clearly, it sounds to me that what he has accomplished is, I guess you would call, ‘rare air.’ And it sounds like he still has some runway to extend his records.”
True. McKay, a 6-foot-1, 220-pound left-handed pitcher, takes his 65-inning scoreless streak into a WPIAL Class AAA semifinal game a 4 p.m. today against West Mifflin at Kelly Automotive Park in Butler.
If Blackhawk keeps winning, McKay has a shot at the national record of 80 consecutive scoreless innings, set in 1973 by Joe Porter of South Natchez High in Mississippi.
“Wow. That’s awesome. That’s unbelievable,” said Candy Young-Sanders, who, as a junior at Beaver Falls in 1979 set a world hurdles record. Her 100-meter hurdles record time of 12.95 seconds and her 50-meter time of 6.95 are still national high school records.
Young-Sanders, 52, is the athletic director at Delaware State University and was unaware of McKay’s efforts, but she perked up when told about another Beaver County athlete making national waves.
“When I was in high school, I did something that was recognized in the world. But, when you do something nationally, that within itself gives it merit,” said Young-Sanders, whose son, Mykele, won two Delaware state championships in the hurdles last week. “When someone in Western Pennsylvania does something nationally, we have to claim it. Like when those Miller brothers [Sean and Archie] were coaching in the NCAA basketball tournament, I was standing up for them.”
South Park graduate Bill Stanley, a sophomore at Ohio State, set the national high school record in the javelin two years ago. He is a little uncomfortable at the thought that he belongs with the WPIAL’s all-time greats, but said of McKay: “I think he belongs. I never heard of a pitcher doing anything like that. Sixty-five straight [shutout] innings is pretty amazing, to be honest.”
There have been WPIAL teams with marvelous national accomplishments. In 1987, North Hills was named the No. 1 football team in the country by USA Today. From 2009-13, Clairton’s football team had a 66-game winning streak, 10th longest in U.S. history.
“There are always dominating pitchers, but to see one who has all shutouts? He deserves to be among the best,” former Clairton coach Tom Nola said. “He’s playing Class AAA, too, so he’s playing pretty good competition.”
As far as individual athletes, it is somewhat amazing that Western Pennsylvania has produced so many athletes who have done noteworthy national things while in high school — just in the past 40 years.
Young, Shapert and Stanley are still national record-holders. Football is king in Western Pennsylvania, and North Hills’ LaVar Arrington (1997), Jeannette’s Terrelle Pryor (2007) and Washington’s Brian Davis (1985) were selected as Parade magazine’s national player of the year.
There were others who have achieved national acclaim. In 1989, Penn Hills’ Dion Bentley set the national high school record in the long jump, a record that stood for 20 years. Sacred Heart basketball player Shannon Davis was a three-time Parade All-American (1987-89) and Seton-LaSalle’s Suzie McConnell was selected twice (1983-84). In 1998, McKeesport basketball star Swin Cash was selected to the prestigious 20-player Women’s Basketball Coaches Association all-star game.
In 2004, Pine-Richland’s Neil Walker became the first WPIAL player taken out of high school in the first round of the Major League Baseball draft since Gateway’s Tim Conroy in 1978.
In 1994, Shaler basketball player Dan Fortson was the first McDonald’s All-American from the WPIAL. In 1982, Steel Valley’s Clinton Davis won a gold medal at the Pan Am Junior Games and still holds state records in the 100 and 200 dashes.
In 1984, Greensburg Central Catholic’s Colleen Rosensteel was one of the best high school discus throwers in the country. Her throw of 168 feet, 11 inches was the sixth best in U.S. high school history at the time. She went on to make the Olympics twice in judo.
Now there is McKay, and Rosensteel didn’t have to be told about him.
“I know who he is,” said Rosensteel, 47, who lives in Greensburg and works for UPMC as a sports performance coach. “High school pitchers are limited in how many innings they can pitch in a week. So when you think about that, it is unbelievable what he’s done.
“I think he belongs among the all-time greats. He’s already done something that’s great. But let’s let him take it the full course. We’re saying ‘Wow, he’s great now.’ But it may be just the tip of the iceberg. He may go from being great to phenomenal.”
So it appears the great ones from the WPIAL believe McKay already has earned his spot in WPIAL lore. But Young-Sanders wanted to deliver a message to McKay, “Tell him I said to go for it.”
For more on high school sports, check the Varsity Blog. Mike White: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1975 and Twitter @mwhiteburgh.