On Nov. 14, 1970, 75 people were killed when a plane carrying members of the Marshall University football team crashed near Huntington. Among them was John Young, a 1968 Buckhannon-Upshur High School graduate.
Young, who played tight end for the state champion 1966 football Buccaneers, was a sophomore with the Thundering Herd when the plane crashed.
Now, 50 years later, Young’s former classmates continue to work to recognize local athletes in his memory.
Buckhannon-Upshur High School has awarded the John Young Award to the best senior male athlete every year since 1971. The winners are recognized with a plaque and included in a trophy case at the school.
During their 50th reunion, the Class of 1968 raised more than $4,000 to replenish the award’s fund and help modernize the display case, which is located inside the main entrance to the school. That process has been slowed by the pandemic but is ongoing, B-UHS athletic director Rick Reynolds said Thursday.
“We were working on that recently,” Reynolds said. The goal is to build a larger display that fits in with the style of the other award exhibits at the high school.
Recognizing students – not just for sports, but for the arts and other academic endeavors – helps motivate them both in those activities and in school, Reynolds noted.
“It’s important to honor kids, for all things, not just sports,” Reynolds said. “Extracurricular activities teach kids discipline and respect, how to get along with others, how to take constructive criticism and fight through adversity, and how to balance those activities with school.”
As a former athlete himself, Reynolds knows firsthand how sports and school can go together to keep kids on track.
“This is really important, because extracurriculars can be a focal point in a kid’s life that keeps him where he needs to be,” Reynolds said.
Winning the John Young Award is not an easy task. Coaches nominate athletes, and then a committee comprised of teachers, administrators and community members makes the final selection. They consider criteria including academics, athletic ability, sportsmanship, leadership, character and more.
“This only goes to one athlete every year, not that there aren’t others who are deserving,” Reynolds said. “It’s a great feat.”
Last year’s John Young Award winner was Ryan Strader, who competed in football, basketball and baseball.