Once More Down Lens
While approaching a group of Gale-Ettrick-Trempealeau seniors I had grown familiar with through attending dozens of their athletic events over the past three-plus years, my mind raced rapidly thinking of what to say.
Prior to the cancellation of the spring high school athletic season, part of me had looked forward to a moment like this. The thought had crossed my mind to take an extra moment to congratulate a few of the seniors after their final spring games, let them know what a pleasure it had been to watch them compete and wish them well. The Class of 2020 was the first class for whom I got to witness the better part of their high school varsity careers and getting to record many of their achievements in sports for that duration carried a different weight than with classes prior.
As I looked around a small gathering of these students about to embark on a long-overdue celebratory parade as part of graduation festivities two weekends ago, I no longer saw timid underclassmen. Standing before me were young men and women who had grown up quickly to face the challenges they had encountered in the last few months especially, and despite some forethought of what to say my mind went blank.
Perhaps it was because the relationship of a sportswriter to the athletes they cover is difficult to encapsulate, particularly at the prep sports level. I’m not as close as a teacher, family member or coach and would cringe for ethical reasons at the labels of “fan,” “friend” or “colleague” as well. Nevertheless, there is inevitably some level of kinship that develops between writer/photographer and student-athlete as they grow more accustomed to seeing me on the sideline and I learn to put faces to names and jersey numbers. Admittedly my perceptions of many of them individually are much like my photos of their athletic feats. I have a snapshot based on observations and short conversations with the student section during timeouts, but not the full picture.
While I had thought of that moment as more of an opportunity to share something profound, I later drove home with a smile on my face at just getting the chance to see many of them again. It wasn’t the goodbye that any of us had envisioned, but at least we got that last time that we knew would be the last time.
Class of 2020, with no more games of yours to cover, I would like to simply say what a pleasure it was to document your progression through high school athletics. While journalistic ethics prohibited me from rooting for you on the court, field, track or diamond, I am rooting for you to achieve all the successes you set out for and deserve in postgraduate life.