Signs of Spring

“I’m gonna miss him,” said little sister Emma Stark about her big brother Joey, who’s headed off to play football at Hope College in the fall. “I wrote about how he’s my hero, because I look up to him; I love him,” she said.
(photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

The future looked sunny for several Athens athletes on a cold, gray May afternoon. The seniors gathered in front of parents, family and teammates to share their decisions about where they were headed in the fall.

But for their families, (and some of the athletes), the signing event was sometimes bittersweet.

Family members and teammates snap photos of their senior athletes. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“It is exciting, it is awesome to see the little kid who used to spit up in our laps now going out to make his mark in the world,” said Jerome Willis, father of Jared who’s going off to Carthage College to play football.

“This is exciting, sad and very emotional,” chimed in mother, Lena. “I’m happy to see his dream come true, playing football in college. When he comes out, he’ll have a career.”

“I’m very excited. I’m gonna miss my parents, but at a certain point, boys have to turn into men, have to grow up,” responded Jared.

Ashley Leonard’s soccer teammates mess around with her during a photo op. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“I’m happy for my sister because she’s very excited to go, but I’ll miss her,” said Allison Leonard of sister Ashley, who’ll be playing soccer at Western Kentucky University next year.

“She’s worked really hard and we’re super proud of her,” said mother Kim.

Who gets her bedroom? “Every three months we’re gonna switch,” joked her sisters.

Smaller groups got together to pose for family. (photo by Rodney Curtis/School Life Troy)

“We’re proud of her, excited and happy,” said the Rauser family, whose daughter Hayley is going off to Rochester College to play soccer.

“This is my first one to go off to college,” said Carrie Kenan, mother of Kayla Kenan. “We’re going to miss her so much, but we’re so proud of her to be a cheerleader, to get a scholarship, to go off to school and do what she loves to do. It’ll be the greatest thing in the world for her,” she said.

“I’m just really excited to be the first one out of the cheer program to be able to be recruited,” said Kayla, who is headed off to Davenport.

“She got to practice with the team, the girls at Davenport. It’s just really exciting that she’s able to get scholarship money and that cheerleading is recognized as a sport,” said cheer coach, Kaja Clark. “Kayla is our first recruited athlete out of our cheer program at Athens. We’ve been very fortunate to have phenomenal athletes go on to cheer at multiple colleges across the country. But Kayla is the first one to get recruited and get actual scholarship dollars.”

As the event wound down, assistant principal Robert Dowd sat off on the side.

“It’s a fun thing to watch, to see a positive ending to great high school careers,” said Dowd. “It’s sad too, because you’d love to look at ‘em and say, ‘how ‘bout coming back for another year?’ You know, get a fifth year for us, what do you think.’”

“It’s one of those things; it’s the rite of life. You have a certain amount of time with them and then they move on. They’re all great kids and it’ll be fun to watch them at the next level,” concluded Dowd.