Pioneer Athletics, based in Cleveland, recently announced the 38 winners of its 2008 Field of Excellence Award.
The football fields and athletic complexes so honored represent universities, high schools and recreation and athletic clubs from around the country.
Ironically, three of the 38 football fields recognized - Gibsonburg, Genoa and Woodmore - are all in the Press coverage area and all are members of the Suburban Lakes League.
Each of the winning fields displayed the originality and creativity that Pioneer was looking for. Each recipient will be awarded a certificate of recognition and a Field of Excellence banner.
The Field of Excellence Award Program honors outstanding athletic fields and the field crews who maintain them.
The Field of Excellence Award Program was established in 1998 and has honored more than 315 fields since its creation. Pioneer Athletics is the nation's leading developer and manufacturer of athletic field marking paints and striping equipment.
Pioneer will present the awards to all three local schools in the fall.
"That's why our fields look as nice as they do, because of Pioneer's paints and our tireless and very dedicated volunteer staff that does the painting," Genoa Athletic Director Rick Briggle said.
Briggle said the nomination process was completed in late December. The school was notified three weeks ago that it had been chosen by Pioneer as having one of the top 25 high school fields in the country.
Mike Thomas, who serves as facilities coordinator for Genoa Schools, said it was "a total shock" to win the award.
"We are constantly working on making the field better, but I never thought we would receive any award for it," he said. "In my mind we still have a ways to go to get our field to be the best, but this shows that all of our hard work is paying off. We have a paint crew that is outstanding and greatly dedicated to our program and to our kids."
Genoa's paint crew, which consists of 15-20 individuals, is headed by Todd Traver, Terry Buckley, Dennis Adkins and Mark Angel.
"On average we have anywhere from 10-20 guys there every week," Thomas said. "Sometimes when I go home at night around 9:30-10, the lights are still on in the stadium and I see the crew sitting or standing in the grandstands looking at their work. This tells me they care about what they do and how it looks.
"This group of men should be very proud of the honor of this award and also for all their hard work and dedication. They don't hear it enough, but we are truly thankful to them for all their work and support of our athletic program at Genoa."
Woodmore Athletic Director Shane Dyer said painting the Wildcats' football field is done by a group called Woodmore School of Paint, under the direction of "paint engineer" Gary Zajac.
Woodmore also received Pioneer's Field of Excellence Award in 2006.
"Those group of guys are unbelievable in their attention to detail and their dedication," Dyer said.
Pictures don't do it justice. Just to be there and see it, it's amazing what they can accomplish with paint. They are volunteers and they do it because they love to give back to the community."
Zajac, who has two daughters and a son who have attended Woodmore, said Woodmore School of Paint started in 1998.
"There was a group of fellows before us and we wanted to carry on the tradition of what they did," Zajac said. "We just took it to the next level, just to do something different for the kids."
He said the Woodmore School of Paint staff consists of Gordon Wend, Beth Zajac, Chris Golightly, Greg Warner, Tom Nickelsen, Tim Grant, Ben Strong, Ron Busdeker, Tom Deitemyer, Roger Schlea, Mario Costantini, Bill Hammer, Karen Ragan, Brian Ragan and Cindi Paul.
"It (the award) is really flattering," Zajac said. "We were on Pioneer's calendar two years ago, and that was kind of neat. Virginia Tech's field was on there and Pittsburgh Steelers stadium was on there. We were hoping this year it will happen again."
Gibsonburg Athletic Director Brent Liskai said six to 12 people work on the Golden Bears' athletic fields at any one time.
"That's the great thing about Gibsonburg," he said. "When it's about the kids, people step up. They take pride in our kids and that shows pride in our facilties, and that's pretty awesome.
"We're trying to build and better things all the time, and we're finally getting where it's a real nice facility. Our kids deserve that. We've got a group of athletic boosters, parents and alumni who come out and support anything they can that makes things good for our kids."