Fallen classmate with Wayne for championship
WHEELING -- On a chilly December night in 2011, Wayne celebrated a state championship by defeating Point Pleasant at the Super Six.
Wayne multi-sport athlete and supporter Kristen Haley Stiltner ran onto the field with her friends and classmates, snapped pictures and joined in the massive celebration.
After returning to Wayne, it was Stiltner who handed the victorious Pioneers the sign that would hang in Wayne commemorating the championship during a ceremony.
At the time, no one knew it would be her final chance to cheer on the Wayne football team.
Stiltner was tragically killed in an automobile crash on May 25 — one day after the Pioneers won their first Class AA softball title.
As Wayne took the field on Friday night against Keyser, the air was a little more serene without the cheering of Stiltner from the stands.
That certainly didn't mean she wasn't there with Wayne's players, though.
"We do everything for her. Our whole team -- our whole varsity squad -- we pray on the 30-yard line before every game and give mad props to her," Wayne senior lineman Anthony Bryant said. "We know she's looking down on us and helping us out every chance she gets. It's awesome, man. It's good she was here helping us out."
Many of the players donned tape and wristbands with the initials "KHS" written on them to honor their fallen classmate.
After winning the title and the Samuel Mumley Award, given to the Class AA championship game's Most Valuable Player from each team, Wayne running back Brandon Spurlock had tears in his eyes when talking about Stiltner and what she meant to him personally and the community as a whole.
"I know she's looking down and smiling right now," Spurlock said. "I talk to her every day -- especially every Friday -- and I tell her to watch us. We were really close and I hate that it happened. This is for her, you know? This is definitely for her. We said that before the season started."
Spurlock added that everything from this season seemed to fall into place for a perfect season to honor Stiltner -- right down to the final opponent of the season in the championship game.
The team on the other side of the field was Keyser High School -- or 'KHS', for short.
"We saw that, and I couldn't believe it," Spurlock said. "I always put it on my wrist and my girlfriend's Dad actually pointed it out. He took a picture and made a poster for me and it said 'KHS'. He thought it meant Keyser High School. I realized this was all meant to be that way."
As the Pioneer seniors walked off the field for the final time, they walked off the field as back-to-back state champions and winners of 23 straight games.
They made it to the state championship game in three of their four years of high school.
They have left a legacy for those at WHS to take pride in.
Just as 'KHS' did before she left Wayne, too.