For a few hours on Thursday evening at Morristown West, it felt like springtime.
On the softball field, the sound of the bat making contact with a softball filled the air. And just 20 yards away, the firing gun was going off every few minutes over at the track signaling the start of another race.
However, if you looked closely, you could see the differences just a few months have made. The social distancing of family members there, hand sanitizer used before every race and the sanitizing of batons after each relay event. And the most important, no jerseys being worn by any of the athletes.
Despite these changes, the seniors from Morristown East and Morristown West who were able to participate in “one final game” didn’t seem to care at all. They were just happy to be out on the field with their friends one more time.
“It really just means a lot to me that Dr. Perry and people like that would give us one last opportunity and one last at bat on our home field,” Morristown West softball senior Katie Wallin said.
On the softball side, each senior was able to take 10 swings from a pitching machine set up on the mound. Each athlete was able to have their walkup song played as they stepped to the plate.
For the four Morristown East seniors, Tapanga Aasbury, Olivia Harris, Megan Russell and Haley Wallace, it was the culmination of a successful high school career that saw them go 96-21.
“It was a very special day today,” Morristown East softball coach Robin Vannoy said. “I really want to thank our administrations and Dr. Perry for giving these seniors one last time to walk on the field. This group is a special group. All four have bright future, and I can’t wait to see what God has in store for them.”
The night was culminated in a big way when Morristown West’s Lily Reneau sent a ball well over the fence in left field for the only home run of the night.
“It really does mean a lot,” Reneau said. “I didn’t think we would be able to do anything like this. Just stepping on the field one last time was great. That home run felt really great.”
Morristown West had just two seniors attend, but that didn’t take away anything from them or Morristown West coach Heather Kelley.
“This is great that the girls get to have a sendoff like this,” Kelley said. “We would like to have the real deal, but this is as good as it gets. I thought it went really smooth. I thought the girls did excellent seeing as the girls probably haven’t picked up a bat in months. I am proud of Lily for hitting that one out. Her and Katie would’ve had big years. I hate it for them, but I know God has a plan and He’ll work this for His good. We’re just thankful to be able to do this and be with one another one more time.”
While softball was in full swing, 11 seniors from Morristown East and Morristown West were taking to the track one final time.
The student athletes participated in events ranging from a shot put/long jump team event to the sprint medley that capped off the night. Because of the easiness and fun atmosphere of the competition, the kids were able to participate in events they wouldn’t normally do.
“It was so fun. We got to try different things,” Morristown West’s Rebecca Noble said. “I am a sprinter, and I got to throw. I’m just glad everyone could come out and have so much fun again and run before we go our separate ways for college.”
Along with the fun, it was also a time for some to improve on times and get one final personal accomplishment and goal on the track.
“It was great to see everyone and get down to five minutes in the mile for once this year.,” Morristown East’s Ryan Sadlon said. “It was great to put on the uniform again. I hope to keep doing well with running at Walters State.”
Morristown West’s Christian Henry was the star of the night, winning the 1600 and then capping off the night with a come from behind win in the sprint medley. For Henry, the night was a break from his training as he prepares to go to Carson-Newman to run in the fall.
“I was really disappointed when everything happened, and I didn’t get to have a senior track season,” Henry said. “I trained on my own but running on your own is not the same as running with friends. When you run with friends, it makes everything easier. Coming out here and doing that one last time was a blast.”
As the night came to a close on both the softball field and on the track, the seniors were able to put on their jersey as they participated in normal senior night activities and had their pictures made with friends and family in their uniforms.
While the senior night came months later than anticipated, it was a night that most thought wouldn’t come. But were very grateful that it did.
“I think it is just great to come out here and be with our teammates one last time and see each other before we go on our separate ways in life,” Morristown East track athlete Nash Prince said.