By James Kay
Even with all the damage it has done around the world, not even COVID-19 could disrupt the grand two-day event that Riverside-Brookfield High School's athletic department put on to honor its senior athletes.
Rewarded with clear skies and T-shirt and shorts weather, RBHS' spring sport athletes stopped by the school on May 15 and 16 to reunite with their respective teams. Picture banners of the seniors were posted all along the east fence of the football field on Golf Road and, at a safe distance, coaches, teammates and family members convened for what was most likely their final time together as a group.
"I think it speaks volumes that every coach, every member of the athletic department and most of the athletes showed up for this," said Assistant Principal for Athletics Brendan Curtin. "This shows you the role that sports play in our lives and how athletics foster relationships that last a lifetime. Some of the seniors might have mentally moved on, some might not have, but we wanted to do this for them before graduation."
At 11 a.m. on May 15, the event started off with a video commemorating the 22 senior athletes who are going on to play college sports. Broadcast on the school's YouTube channel, Instagram and Twitter accounts, the video started off with a quick speech from Curtin in the main gym.
It then turned to personal messages from the seniors thanking family members and RBHS team members for helping them reach their dream of playing college sports.
Once the video ended, the teams rotated through to pick up their awards from the athletic department, which included recognition certificates for all-conference and academic all-conference honors, letters, pins and a "challenge" coin.
When the event was announced last week, the athletic department stated the coin signified "the challenges the student-athletes have endured these past several weeks."
Teams were assigned 30-minute time slots to stop by their banners and abide by social distancing protocols. Even in these unprecedented circumstances, the seniors appreciated what the athletic department did to honor them.
"It was great to see everybody again," said senior volleyball player Vejas Cuplinskas. "We hadn't seen everyone together since our last practice, which was right before [the IHSA] suspended the season. We got to talk with our coach as well and catch up. They did a really nice thing for us and it was nice to get some closure."
Michael Schicker, who played on the varsity baseball team for the last three years, also felt that the event was a nice way to tie a bow on an unfortunate situation.
"It was a great event," said Schicker. "We are lucky that [the athletic department] cares so much and wanted to put something like this together. It was so nice of them to do this for us. With everything that has gone on, it means a lot to me, the senior athletes and I think even the non-athletes how much the school cares about us."
After weeks of planning, finding businesses to make the customized challenge coins and picture banners and executing the event, Curtin and the athletic department are getting back to work on figuring out the next steps when it comes to the future of high school sports.
"There's never a dull moment," said Curtin. "It's nice what we were able to accomplish over the past couple days, but there's a checklist of things to get rolling on."
The seniors were able to collect their picture banners on May 19 and collect their awards if they were unable to obtain them on May 15 and 16.