The Adairsville High Class of 2020 experienced a senior year unlike any group of Tigers that came before them. Many seminal moments were taken away from them by the COVID-19 outbreak.
However, a huge portion of the Adairsville spring athletes got to partake Tuesday in one of the most time-honored high school sports traditions — senior night. To be sure, it was far from a typical senior night, but the smiles, laughs and hugs shared proved it was a memorable experience.
“It was just good to get everybody back out one more time,” Tigers head baseball coach Billy Roper said. “The season ended so quick. … At least now, there’s some type of finality.”
Roper only had a couple of seniors on this year’s team in Wade Conduff and Evan Henry. Both were successful on the field and in the classroom, boasting 3.9 GPAs.
Conduff is planning to attend Georgia State to double major in economics and public policy. He also plans to try out for the baseball team. Henry, who recently earned the Vic Beasley Sr. scholarship, is headed to Alabama-Birmingham to pursue a biomedical engineering degree followed by medical school.
“I’m very proud of those two guys,” Roper said. “They’re high academic kids. … The sky's the limit for them. I’m happy to look forward to what they do in the future.”
Conduff and Henry each got to celebrate their senior nights alongside a fellow graduating sibling. Millie Conduff was the only senior on the girls soccer team, while Owen Henry ended up being the lone representative of the track and field program.
“I’m just thankful, because they didn’t have to give us this,” Wade Conduff said. “I’m just thankful they allowed this. It was fun.
"Senior night is just a huge senior moment, and this gave us the opportunity to still have that.”
He admitted, though, that he didn’t think this night would come, dragging his feet on submitting the senior night info until it became clear the event would take place. Meanwhile, his sister let it be known that she was the first one to fill out and return the sheet.
“I was happy to have it,” Millie Conduff said. “I got to have my whole team back, so it was cute and people started crying.”
A lot of those tears came from her teammates, who initially weren’t expected to be able to attend the ceremony. But Gov. Brian Kemp recently relaxed restrictions on mass gatherings, allowing for groups of up to 50 to meet without social distancing restrictions and those larger to still congregate with 6 feet of separation needed.
“Originally, we had it planned without teammates,” Adairsville athletic director Meredith Barnhill said. Having them there, "that’s going to make it a little more special for the kids.”
It made it special for the coaches, as well.
“It was awesome to bring the team back together and have [Millie’s] thoughts shared,” Tigers head girls soccer coach David Sexauer said. “She was a special player to this team. The girls really believed in her as the captain.
"It was special, bringing everybody back together. We had a really strong turnout. Basically the whole team is here, minus maybe two.”
Even though senior night festivities, particularly ones taking place after the season is over, lend themselves to reflecting on the past, Sexauer also saw it as a chance to begin fully focusing on next year.
“Now, we just turn the page to the next season,” said Sexauer, whose team was unbeaten this spring when the season was cut short. “We’ve got a lot of returning players. I’ve got a strong set of ninth-graders coming up. … I think we can have more depth than we had this year. We’re only losing one and we’re gaining four or five, so we’re in a good place.”
The evening was broken down into three segments.
Millie Conduff was joined in the first part by four of the six seniors from the boys soccer team. Wade Conduff and the two Henrys made up the middle portion, which consisted of baseball and track. The night concluded with all four golf seniors and five of the six from tennis being honored during a light rain.
The boys soccer seniors included AJC Cup recipient and wrestling state champion Angel Banda, along with Tyrek Bryant, Gustavo Gollaz and Camden Milton.
Valedictorian Evan Crane was the only boys golf senior, although a majority of his bio, all of which were announced over the Tiger Stadium speakers, recounted self-deprecating moments involving broken golf clubs. The trio of girls golf seniors — Lindsey Angland, Maycie Gwin and Cortni Jacobs — were also honored after helping lead Adairsville to state twice in their careers.
Oak Hemby, Peter Lehto and Zach Ogle were the boys tennis seniors in attendance, while Madison Camp and Megan Smith were the team’s graduating girls. Smith’s message to her teammates and coaches probably summed up how a lot of participating seniors felt on this occasion.
“Thank you so much for all you have done for me,” she wrote. “I really wish we could have finished our season, but I will always remember the fun times we had together. Love y’all.”
It certainly wasn't the senior season any of the athletes would have envisioned. But they still got to celebrate their achievements with teammates, coaches and family members one last time.
“I’m pleased with it,” Barnhill said. “Our parents seem pleased; our kids seem pleased. I was glad that we were able to get it in, because they weren’t able to have their senior night.
“It’s not exactly the same, but it is some acknowledgment. I was happy we got to do that.”