One Last Hurrah: The Significance of Senior Night< < Back to
For many little kids, high school basketball is the pinnacle of their athletic ambitions. The varsity squad, practically superheroes before their eyes, an aspiration to climb towards as they grow. Then, as the day comes when those young adults are finally able to put on that jersey and represent their hometown and those heroes of years gone by; time flies. In the blink of an eye, their senior year is almost over, and with it, their time donning that jersey.
Senior night provides a moment of celebration and reflection for those players, a time to come together as a team and as a community to triumphantly send off their elder statesmen to the next phase of their lives.
If all that is to happen, though, a lot of time and effort is required. For those seniors to ride off into the sunset, someone needs to provide the horses. For that duty, you have to look not toward the court, but behind the scenes to a group of hard working friends of the basketball program and families of the players.
Meigs High School, seated in Pomeroy, draws from several different communities across southeast Ohio. The Meigs Marauders have had an up-and-down season, sitting at 11-10 coming into their Feb. 15 senior night matchup against the River Valley Raiders. They boast an impressive assemblage of talent, and a student section that never fails to lift up the team. But nothing all year would compare to the atmosphere of that Friday night, where the gym and lobby were packed in earnest.
It’s a turnout that Megan Wolfe expected.
“We’ll have a lot of family, we’ll have a lot of people come from out of town, we’ll probably have our biggest attendance on senior night,” Wolfe said. “Just you know, community members who come out and congratulate [the seniors] on their achievements.”
Wolfe, the mother of Meigs junior guard Weston Baer, wears the hats of cheerleading advisor and treasurer of the athletic boosters, and was in the school building along with other volunteers hours before game time to set up.
On a standard game night in Pomeroy, a single table is stationed outside the gym, where supporters pay for admittance. Senior night is not a standard game night. Kiosks for, among other things, a wreath raffle, bake sale, and fundraising for Meigs Middle School classrooms surround the perimeter of the lobby. Balloons and flowers pervade every corner. And of course, center stage lies four posters on display, for the four seniors to which Meigs basketball is saying goodbye – Zach Bartrum, Cooper Darst, Cole Betzing and Nick Lilly. Gifts surround each of their posters, like offerings before a shrine. The posters themselves, adorned with biographical information and pictures from every stage of that senior’s life, took hours to make.
“It took a little bit, maybe an hour of so [to make,]” Kim Betzing said. “Just going through all the old pictures – brings back a lot of memories, good memories.”
Betzing, the vice president of Meigs Athletics Boosters, has kept the stat books for both Meigs boys and girls basketball the past four years. Betzing’s son Cole and daughter Kassidy are both graduating this year, and she plans to retire from her bookkeeping duties as both her children will attend Ohio University in the fall.
Zach Bartrum didn’t mince words as to how he was feeling about the big game.
“Excited,” he said, after practice days before Senior Night. “Very excited.”
Bartrum would be playing his final game in the Marauders’ home gym on Friday, and he knew what to expect. He had seen three senior nights before, but not his. It’s a night that goes beyond the celebration of great basketball play, into the realm of celebrating the careers of young men who played the game for nothing more than the love of the sport.
“I think it’s important to them because when they are in grade school, or junior high, I know that’s something they look forward to: ‘when I’m a senior.’ So it’s all about them, it’s giving them the glory,” Wolfe said. “So I think it’s great that we are able to do this, the parents are able to do it, and just recognize them because they’ve worked all this time to get to their senior year. They definitely deserve it.”
It’s a sentiment that was reciprocated by the players. Just as the town works hard to make senior night possible, the players work hard on the court to show their appreciation.
“I play for everybody,” Lilly said. “The fans, the community, my teammates, I play for them.”
A high school senior night is a poignant reminder of how much a community can come together and work not for themselves, but for each other. Even booster president Deb Gerard originally found herself in her position only to help people she cared for.
“I [started working in the boosters] ‘cause I had friends that needed help doing this several years ago,” she said. Just how long ago? Gerard turns to a lady next to her, the both of them working the concessions booth. They confer. “Seven?” Gerard says. “Maybe seven years ago. I think [senior night] keeps everybody close, it’s good for the kids’ morale, and they enjoy it.”
As senior night gets underway, the four Marauder seniors take their turns walking out onto the court with their families. The PA announcer has received names of family members, favorite moments, and future plans of all the seniors to announce as they make their walk. The sense of closeness Gerard spoke of is apparent. Students chant names and hold signs. Applause rains down for minutes at a time. And it becomes clear that the four are being celebrated for more than just their basketball skill. As Zach Bartrum’s father, Mike, points out, it’s about the person they have become over those four years.
“Proud of [Zach], number one; he’s a pretty good young man, which I care about that more than stupid sports,” he said. “Whether its football, basketball, whatever it is he does, he’s a pretty good young kid and he’s got a chance to go play some college football and continue his education … I think that’s the most important thing is to be awesome young men when they get out of here.”
As the opening festivities subside and the game passes by, the gym shakes from the sheer number of people inside. The student section has adopted a KISS theme for the night, many in the front row with painted faces. In the throng of students, a Smith Construction sign is inexplicably paraded around. And as the final minutes inevitably come around, it is time for the final curtain call. First Cole Betzing. Then Cooper Darst. Nick Lilly. And Finally, Zach Bartrum. He takes a moment, breathes in, then goes around the court, high-fiving his teammates on the court before taking to the bench.
Post-game, a cake with writings of congratulations is cut and shared amongst the players and their families. Mrs. Betzing made it herself. Parents pitched in to supply the feast with cutlery and plates. Meigs’ senior night comes to a close with the team surrounded by their teammates and family. And cake.