By Abi Cole
Leicester – Students athletes said farewell to four years of athletics at Clyde A. Erwin High School. Coaches and teachers held a drive-through parade, decorating cars and holding signs for the 77 senior athletes on Thursday night.
Every coach banded together to celebrate the graduating class. “We have twenty-three sports, and each one is represented by their coaches. I don’t know a coach that’s not here,” said athletic director Barry Owens.
Student-athletes are traditionally honored at a catered banquet concluding the school year. But in late March, sporting events and large gatherings were canceled statewide in response to the coronavirus. Calling off the annual celebration of athletes was “not an option” for the Erwin Community.
“We’ve had to rethink everything that we’ve had planned, maybe since the beginning of the school year… rather than canceling everything. That’s not an option for Erwin,” said teacher Anita Voznyuk. Instead, coaches and teachers lined a parking lot with banners, decked out cars in Warrior colors, and personalized posters for each graduating senior. Coaches’ vehicles commemorated every team and displayed senior jerseys for the last time. Cheers resounded over the sound of car horns that filled the parking lot with pride while student-athletes drove through a sea of red and white.
“It truly felt like an honor. It makes you really emotional to see how much effort people put into caring about us seniors. It really just shows how much our coaches and our Erwin community really cares about us,” reflected three-sport female Athlete of the Year Allie Jones.
After the parade, students and families convened in the senior lot for a drive-in-movie starring the resilient athletes. At dusk, a personal video commemorating the year’s sports seasons with recorded messages from each coach was school. Cars tuned into the accompanying audio broadcast over the radio. Slideshows of photos remembering the past four years of athletics overlaid coaches congratulating the class and emphasizing the student’s perseverance on and off the field. Horns honked and families shouted from the seats of their cars when teammates and friends won athletic awards.
The change of plans cemented this senior night as one to remember forever. Jones hopes that the athlete parade and drive-in-movie will continue in the future. “I think it’s cooler than any banquet we’ve ever had…Even if we are the only class that gets to participate in it, I think we totally deserve it but I really hope that other kids in the future get to be a part of it,” said Jones.
Athletes have been challenged on and off the field during these extraordinary times. The fate of college, jobs, and conventional life is up in the air for the graduating class.
Coaches and teachers were determined to pull in one last victory for their senior student-athletes. This was an unconventional way to recognize Erwin’s High School’s senior sports athletes and conclude an unconventional year. As football coach said in the farewell video, “Sports doesn’t define you, rather it’s a part of your story. Once a Warrior, always a Warrior.”