By KARL PEARSON
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP - It's been a great week in a pretty special year for Jill Moga.
It began with the announcement by the Edgewood High School senior of her decision to attend West Virginia Wesleyan College and play softball. It continued with the knowledge that she is on the court for the Edgewood prom. The significance grew even greater with the knowledge she is very much on track to be the class valedictorian.
To top it all off, the daughter of Pam and Tim Moga received an honor she claimed left her searching for words Sunday when she was chosen winner of the Ashtabula County Women's Scholar-Athlete Association Scholarship. She topped a field of seven other girls from county schools to become the first Edgewood girl to win the $1,000 award in the ACWSAA's 11-year history.
"I couldn't move. Usually, I can always talk," she said about hearing her name called by Lake Catholic girls basketball coach Frank Soria, who served as chairman of the independent selection committee for the scholarship. "This is probably one of the first times I've ever been speechless."
Moga wasn't the only scholar-athlete to achieve a first for her school during the awards banquet at the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School. SS. John and Paul senior Angela Notte was chosen the sixth winner of the Alyce E. Pokelsek Memorial Scholarship, a $500 award. She is the first Herald athlete to be chosen for that scholarship.
University of Akron head women's soccer coach Catherine Byrne was the featured speaker for the event.
It took a moment or two for Moga to compose herself enough to get to the podium to collect the check and commemorative clock ACWSAA president Frank Roskovics had waiting for her. As she was handed the microphone she was heard to whisper, "I'm still shaking."
But, with the poise that has come from four years on the softball field, three years on the basketball court and one year on the cross country course, in addition to participation in a variety of school and civic organizations and the effort it takes to maintain a 4.0 grade-point average, Moga found her composure.
"I want to thank my parents, who have supported me in whatever I've done and whatever I do and have told me I can do it," she said. "I want to thank Dad for hitting all those softballs to me and Mom, who told me academics would always pay off for me."
Pam Moga's words have proven prophetic.
"All the hard work has paid off," her daughter said. "This has definitely been a dream moment."
Prophetic advice also came to Moga from other sources. In ways unknown to them, they told of her impending victory.
"I'm so proud to be the first one," she said. "Mr. (Retired athletic director Al) Goodwin and Miss (retired softball coach Lori) Smith told me no Edgewood girl had even won it. I'm so happy to represent the school this way."
Given the choice, Moga would have selected a different winner.
"I'd have chosen Kaitlyn (Tinney, SS. John and Paul's representative)," she said. "I thought she had done so many things and has had a tremendous athletic career as well."
Tinney did not go away empty-handed, receiving a $100 scholarship from the ACWSAA. Similar awards were presented to Conneaut's Hayley Griswold, Geneva's Carli Urcheck, Grand Valley's Halle Zakowski, Jefferson's Kayla Stowe and Pymatuning Valley's Laura Pollander.
Notte's selection as the Pokelsek Scholarship winner probably was also destined. Along with her credentials as a 3.99 student with three varsity basketball letters and four softball letters at SJP, she is one of thousands of Ashtabula County children who learned to swim in Alyce Pokelsek's backyard swimming pool in the Harbor district before her death.
Pokelsek's daughter, Cheryl Duffield, presented the award, talking about how much her mother, who competed in track, basketball, softball in an era when girls did not participate in sports, and later played racquetball and golf, loved sports. She also spent countless hours instructing children in gymnastics and swimming.
Notte, daughter of Donna and Jim Notte, noted those lessons in expressing her thanks.
"I still can't say I'm a very good swimmer," the Slippery Rock College-bound senior said, drawing a laugh. "I am thankful to Mrs. Pokelsek and her family for this award."