When it comes to garnering the athletic attention of the greater Pittsburgh area, McGuffey athletic programs often face an uphill climb.
A mid-sized school district in rural Washington County, McGuffey is about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh. The school has rarely been known as an athletic hotbed.
Over the past three years, however, some athletic programs at the high school, specifically the girls basketball and softball teams, have been garnering some attention.
The softball team has reached the WPIAL playoffs three consecutive seasons, winning at least 14 games each year and reaching the district quarterfinals twice.
The girls basketball team has won back-to-back Section 5-AA titles while winning 24 consecutive section games. The team reached the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals and PIAA playoffs in back-to-back years while winning 20 games each season.
When it comes to individual attention, most of that is being garnered by a rising senior at the school, Sammie Weiss.
Weiss, a 5-foot-11 guard, averaged 23.4 points per game this season for the basketball team, ranking No. 1 in Class AA and No. 3 among all WPIAL players. She was a first-team all-state selection. She scored 20 points or more 21 times and 30 or more three times. With another season left to play, Weiss is already the all-time leading scorer in school history with 1,651 points.
Weiss, a former starting catcher on the softball team, was moved to shortstop this year and came through with an all-section performance. For her efforts, she has been named the Post-Gazette South Xtra Female High School Athlete of the Year.
"It is really cool," Weiss said of the new-found attention the school is receiving in the WPIAL. "There is not a lot of other schools around here that get that kind of attention. I have good friends and teammates and they help us get that attention. It is cool to know that we are the ones who kind of turned around McGuffey basketball."
The Weiss family resides in Blaine Township.
When it came time to pick sports to play, Weiss and her older sister, Cassie, had natural choices. Their father played basketball and their mother played softball.
"We really had to play the same exact sport or it wouldn't work," Sammie Weiss said explaining the rigors of transportation to practices and games.
Cassie Weiss was a standout pitcher who liked softball. Sammie Weiss always had a knack for finding a way to score on the basketball court and she liked basketball. More than anything the sisters liked playing together.
"I liked basketball a lot more," Sammie Weiss said. "After my freshman year all my older friends [on the softball team] graduated, so I just kept going to play for my sister. I'm pretty sure she played basketball for me."
Cassie Weiss graduated in the spring and will play softball at Bethany College in West Virginia this coming school year.
McGuffey girls basketball coach Amanda Burchett has coached Sammie Weiss since the sixth grade, starting out as her middle school coach.
"She was a very timid player at first," Burchett said. "It kind of suits her personality; she is a super quiet kid. She is very laid back. In the past couple years she has taken on the role of being a scorer and controlling the game a bit more.
"Now she has more of a killer instinct and is really starting to develop. She is a very natural scorer, she just finds a way. If her shot is not working on the outside, she will drive to the basket, it just comes natural to her."
Her teammates have been some of the beneficiaries of the attention Weiss has received. Rising junior guard Katie Demi and rising senior guard Rachel Czulewicz have developed into two of the top guards in the section. Czulewicz has a chance to be another 1,000-point career scorer on the team.
"It is great that our school is getting a lot more attention," Burchett said. "A lot more people are coming to watch our games, we have huge crowds and more student participation. We have a lot more recognition throughout the school.
"Being a really good basketball team, a couple more kids have gotten the opportunity [to be seen by college recruiters]. A large part of them come to watch Sammie and they see everybody. Kids might get looks and opportunities that weren't there in the past."
Sammie Weiss is quick to deflect praise and say it works the other way around, her teammates are helping her get attention.
She wants to play basketball in college but is undecided. Some schools she is looking at include California University of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University and Wheeling Jesuit University.