WHEELING - The location of the Super Six Kickoff Dinner changed this year from the McLure House Hotel to the Capitol Theatre Ballroom, but the focus of the entire weekend remains what it's been for nearly two decades - the kids.
No one had a shorter drive but came from farther away to express that sentiment Thursday night than Madonna Principal Steve Grasser, who took the job after previously living and working in St. Louis, Mo.
As an example, he spoke of the media coverage - newspaper, television, and radio - of high school sports in the area.
When Grasser looked into the Weirton community and the Ohio Valley as a whole, he couldn't believe what he saw.
''A lot of people (in St. Louis) wondered, 'Why there would be that much coverage of high school sports?' '' he said. ''Some people looked at that as a being sign as something odd, something that's not right here.
''Excuse me, based on what I just heard from the people here, we have our priorities right. We are showcasing every single weekend, to make sure everybody in our communities shares in your successes ... We are making sure that our community comes first. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of that here in West Virginia.''
Grasser was just one of many representatives from participating schools (Wayne and Keyser in Class AA, Cabell Midland and Martinsburg in Class AAA, and Madonna and Wahama in Class A) to speak during the event.
Their talks ranged from big schools to small schools, from first-timers at Super Six to multiple returnees, from individual stars to singular team nicknames, and from borrowed facilities to on-campus palaces.
Still, they all shared some common threads. Each of these teams were sent off toward Wheeling on roads lined with proud community members; they each talked of glowing academic successes; and how their kids may come from different backgrounds, but they all come together and aren't afraid to work toward a goal.
It's what makes West Virginia so special they said, repeating something West Virginia University men's basketball coach Bob Huggins often says - the state's people are its greatest resource.
Of course, the pats on the back extended far beyond the media, as a lot of work must be done to make Super Six a success. Those recognized included Super Six Committee board members, Ohio County Board of Education members, multiple sponsors, many of which have been longtime supporters, statewide governing activities agencies, volunteers, and football officials.
Speaking of those officials, the honorary referees for the games were announced at the banquet. In Class AA, it's Don Dellinger, assistant superintendent of Berkeley County Schools; in Class AAA, it's 47-year veteran high school football official Mike Webb; and in Class A, it's Undo's Family Restaurants, which have sponsored Wheeling's Super Six efforts since their inception in 1993.
The Class AA state title game, featuring Keyser and Wayne, will be played at 7:30 tonight at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Academic Achievement Banquet is set for 10 a.m. Saturday. The Class AAA game, featuring Cabell Midland and Martinsburg, will be played at noon, and the Class A title game, with Madonna and Wahama, will kick off at 7:30 p.m.