Bill Gamble - Patron/Contributor
Over the past 60 years, Bill Gamble has announced over 300 West Allegheny home football games, earning him the moniker “The Voice of the Indians.” During that time, he has missed announcing only three games. As such, Gamble has been selected for induction into the West Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of his continuous dedication to promoting the West Allegheny football program. Gamble says his interest in the school’s football program started in 1949 when, at a young age, he began attending games. Later, he went on to play for the varsity team and quarterbacked his junior and senior years. After high school, Gamble served in the military and, in 1960, returned home. That same year
he announced his first game alongside his brother, John. Bill says the opportunity fulfilled a longtime interest he had in sports broadcasting. Over the next 24 years, the Gamble brothers announced West Allegheny home football games together, often from atop a temporary and unsteady painter’s scaffolding. At that time, West Allegheny’s football field was located at the site of the Imperial Shop ‘n Save. When John retired, Bill became the sole announcer and he has kept at it for the past 36 years simply because, he says, “It was lots of fun!” He does admit, though, that announcing games became more “exciting” and easier to announce once coach Bob Palko brought a winning tradition to the program. A lifelong Oakdale resident, Bill’s contributions to West Allegheny athletics do not begin or end with football. He has also coached various youth baseball and softball leagues, including the West Allegheny Little League, West Allegheny Pony League and the West Allegheny Girls Softball League. As well, he has served as president of the West Allegheny Baseball League and the West Allegheny Girls Basketball Booster Club. He has also served on the West Allegheny Board of School Directors Athletic Committee. Outside of West Allegheny athletics, Gamble has served as mayor and as a council member in Oakdale for a combined eight years. He has also been a member of the Oakdale VFD for over 50 years and is a retiree from the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services. In the past, Bill has declined attempts to recognize his 60 years of service to various West Allegheny sports programs. Rather, he has always said simply that it was “an honor” to support his alma mater in this manner and wanted no recognition for his efforts. However, this year he was nominated over his objections. As Palko expressed in his own nomination letter for Gamble, “In my 24 years as the Head Football Coach at WestA, I have never encountered such a diligence and dedication of spirit as Mr. Bill Gamble!” Bill and his wife, Mary, of 52 years, have three daughters: Lisa, Sharon and Lori. The couple also has six grandchildren.
Amy Palko - Athlete
Amy Palko was selected for induction into the West Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame for her outstanding accomplishments as a member of the West Allegheny varsity volleyball team. During her high school athletic career, Palko helped lead her teams to four WPIAL section championships, two consecutive WPIAL championship appearances and a state championship in 2006. Though she never sought or wanted individual recognition during her playing career, Amy was named first team all section three times and first team all state twice as a junior and senior. She was also a national qualifier for the Renaissance Volleyball Club in 2006 and 2007. According to her physical education teacher Andy
Barry, the success that Palko and her team achieved during her high school playing career was no accident. As Barry states, “her drive to succeed is what makes her elite in my own opinion, plain and simple, she will outwork everyone in all that she does.” Barry further relates, “She does not know any other way.” In addition, David McBain, West Allegheny’s director of athletics, relates, “Amy’s work ethic, leadership skills and personal qualities were above reproach.” McBain continues, “Amy brought to our school her tenacious attitude to excel in the classroom as well as on the volleyball court!” Barry summed up Amy’s high school playing career by stating, “Amy was a leader and tone-setter for the team that reached greatness (PA State Championship) and, together, they left their legacy at West Allegheny!” Palko’s success in the classroom and on the volleyball court did not end with high school. She received a full scholarship to Duquesne University and played for four years as a starter on the university’s team. She also made the Dean’s List, the A-10 Commissioner Honor Roll, and the Director of Athletics Honor Roll those same four years. During her college career, she fought through numerous injuries as she continued to excel on the court. She played in over 120 matches in both regular and post-season play. In addition, she held the position of libero/defensive specialist and left Duquesne University after setting a school career record for digs (1,713). Palko graduated with honors with a degree in integrated marketing. She now works for the University of Pittsburgh Human Resources Department.
George Kehm - Patron/Contributor
George Kehm’s induction into the West Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame recognizes his philanthropic efforts which have benefitted various local youth sports programs over the course of 50 years. Back when the area’s local communities were not as financially secure, Kehm helped maintain many of the area’s athletic fields. He also bought uniforms, equipment and supplies for players and provided transportation for them to and from practice and games. For over 40 years, he financially maintained the Hankey Farms athletic fields and was the team’s sponsor. He also maintained Oakdale’s fields and sponsored North Fayette and Oakdale athletic teams for almost 50 years. As one of Kehm’s nominators, John Bates, states: “Mr. Kehm sponsored the uniforms for all three Hankey Farms travel teams ...” Bates continues, writing, “This sponsorship continued for numerous years. The community baseball fields were never denied the attention they needed.” As another example, Kehm’s son, Jerry, remembers that George made arrangements each spring to have trucks of fresh topsoil hauled to the local athletic fields and spread on the fields to assure that the fields were properly prepared for the approaching baseball season. Jerry further remembers George taking many of the teams to dinner at Tonidale Restaurant at the end of the season. One of George’s proudest moments on the baseball field came in 1976 when he managed a team of talented younger players who were not selected as all stars because of their age in the Oakdale Bicentennial Tournament. The team defeated all-star teams from West Allegheny in the semifinals and Penn Hills in the
championship game. The tournament trophy still sits prominently in the offices of Kehm Oil, the company George founded. In addition to various youth baseball teams, George has also sponsored many West Allegheny football and baseball sports teams. As another nominator, Dutch Schmitt, relates in his letter of support, “Not many games were played in the area without a Kehm Oil sponsored team. If you look at any old program, whether sports related or school related either the front page, back page or the entire program was supported by George Kehm or Kehm Oil Co.” During his playing days, George was considered to be a standout baseball player who even signed a minor league contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Once he retired from playing ball, he coached from 1969 through 1981 in the Hankey Farms and North Fayette youth programs. In closing, Bates writes, “When it came to the Youth in the community, Mr. Kehm would always step up to the plate!!”
Girls Cross Country
1995 WPIAL Champion Team - Team
The 1995 West Allegheny girls’ cross-country team set the tone for the program’s high achievements in subsequent years when they won the 1995 AA WPIAL title. Never before in school history had a girls cross-country team achieved such success. They were also a team comprised of young, eager individuals who had little previous competition experience. When describing the team, their coach, Jim Hamilton, describes the group as one that was highly motivated to learn how to compete and who were committed to following his training methods. However, as Hamilton further states, they quickly developed their own personality as they began experiencing success in competition, especially after a win over a highly successful Ellwood City team. Hamilton says that there was no “superstar” runner on the team, which was comprised of Katie Cole, Lauren Northen, Carrie Antel, Michelle Buzon, Megan Boesenber, Kristin Coates, Lisa Shoup, Megan Carney, Heather Conn, Christina Dorsch, April Pepe and Melissa Klobchar. Rather, Hamilton recalls that they were motivated by a belief that they had “strength in numbers.” As a result, they began calling themselves the “The Pack Attack” or “Vultures” who ran together as a team, taking on individual runners during each competition. Assistant coach Ernie Axton
recalls, “I remember the girls on the team as being best friends and supportive of each other.” In addition, Hamilton says they were a tough group of runners. He says he recalls Antel wearing a cast in order to keep competing even though she suffered from painful shin splints. As the team became more successful during that winning season, Hamilton remembers that they were excited about the approaching WPIAL meet. However, they never expected to become the first girls cross-country team in school history to win that title. They continued their unexpected success the following week when they placed fifth in the PIAA state meet. During those same meets, Antel, while wearing her cast, placed fifth in WPIAL meet and 21st in PIAA competition. As Hamilton summarizes, the 1995 girls cross-country team began the season as a group of individuals who quickly learned to run as a “pack of vultures” to become the first WPIAL girls cross-country champions in school history.
Girls Cross Country
1998 and 1999 WPIAL Champion Team - Team
The 1998 and 1999 girls cross-country teams reached a collective level of success that may never again be replicated. They were considered “back-to-back” teams because they consisted primarily of the same core group of runners who, over a two-year period, achieved a sustained level of success. During that time, they became a group of highly motivated athletes who worked strongly to support one another and ultimately become championship-caliber teams. The 1999 team could count two eventual state champions and West Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame inductees among its ranks. “We always preached the team aspect of cross country to pull for each other,” assistant coach Mark Russo writes, “work hard and great things can happen!” Russo continues, “It was awesome seeing the Pack pulling and working together!” Both the 1998 and 1999 teams included Lauren Shaffer, Jenny Snyder, Vicki Hatton, Ashley Moore, Brielle Pearce and Tara Krajnak. Koelling and Northen graduated at the end of the first year. Christine Taranto, Autumn Shaffer, Erin Walk, Kelly Gilligan and Nicole Lesovitch were added to the 1999 team. Both teams effectively combined the unique talents of superstar runners like Shaffer and Taranto with those of runners such as Hatton and Krajnak who grinded out invaluable finishes. As the 1998 team approached the end of the regular season, head coach Jim Hamilton knew that he had a strong team entering the WPIAL meet. He turned out to be right, because Lauren Shaffer, a junior that year, placed second while senior Koelling placed 15th. Moore placed 21st and Northen placed 22nd. After securing that WPIAL championship, the team
placed 10th in the PIAA state meet the following week. At that meet, Shaffer posted the third-fastest time in statewide competition. The 1999 team completed their regular season with even higher expectations as they entered the WPIAL meet. Again, the team won the WPIAL championship as Lauren Shaffer placed first and Taranto placed second. Autumn Shaffer placed ninth while Walk placed 14th. The following week, the team placed fourth in PIAA competition, with Lauren Shaffer finishing first to become the first girls cross-country state champion in school history. Taranto, just a freshman at the time, placed fifth overall. She would eventually become the second state champion girls cross country runner in school history. Shaffer was inducted into the West Allegheny Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012 while Taranto was inducted in 2013. Reflecting back to those back-to-back championship-winning teams, Hamilton laments that those runners collectively set a “high mark of excellence” in girls’ cross country competition that may never again be repeated.