Tucked away in a scrapbook full of memories from my senior year of high school over 20 years ago is an article that was written about my high school track team. As a group, we finished as the state runner-ups in Class A, but what makes that article special to me is a small section that highlighted my race in the 1600-meter run at the region meet that qualified me for the Georgia High School state championships, something I had been working for my entire prep career.
I still remember my teammates, every single one of them, barreling down the hill to meet me as I crossed the finish line.
It is a moment that will forever be etched in my mind, sharing a moment with my best friends in a sport that is often viewed as individual competition. That article has since symbolized that moment and all the work that I had put into making it happen.
Now, two decades later, I am privileged to be the one telling those stories. My job, if you can call it that, is to highlight student-athletes and give them something they can keep and look back on with a smile when they remember the joys of playing high school sports.
Unfortunately, due to the unforeseen and unprecedented circumstances involving the COVID-19 pandemic, prep teams and athletes around the country have been forced to press the pause button on their seasons. In the Chattanooga area, spring sports were just getting started before the school systems decided to call a full timeout, leaving athletes, coaches, parents, and fans wondering if and when they would be able to resume play.
While most understand that this was absolutely the right call to make for the well-being of our nation, it doesn’t make it any less heart-breaking, particularly for the seniors. Many of these student-athletes have worked for years to excel at their craft, and are now struggling with the idea that the curtain might have closed on their high school careers without the final act or the curtain call.
COVID-19 and its effects on our society have taken over our televisions and social media newsfeeds, often in a much-needed way, as we all search for answers and try to stay up-to-date on what is going on with this virus and how to flatten the curve. While it is understandable to focus on what has been lost during this time, we at the Chattanoogan want to redirect some of the spotlight to these senior student-athletes and share their stories.
Starting tomorrow, we will begin a series called #ChattanooganSeniorSpotlight, where we will highlight one local prep team each day for as many days as we have responses. I have sent an e-mail to every athletic director in Hamilton County and Bradley County asking for their coaches to contact me in the hopes that we have the opportunity to highlight every group of seniors in the area.
If you are associated with a spring sports team in the Chattanooga area, please encourage your coach to reach out to me at the e-mail address at the bottom of this article. In an effort to be as efficient as possible, and because I feel that it is important to keep the coaches and administrators at the forefront of this process, I respectfully ask that only coaches contact me directly regarding their teams.
Beyond that, please share these stories on social media using #ChattanooganSeniorSpotlight, both of teams that you support and others in the community, and help us let everyone know of the tremendous senior student-athletes we have in this area.
(E-mail Kevin Llewallyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.)