Lights for lost seasons

Karrigan True

More stories from Karrigan True

Prom Coronation
May 4, 2021

photo by Hallie Gates

“Be the Light” is a campaign started to honor high-school athletes who will miss out on their season due to COVID-19. Meridian High School made the decision to participate on April 9. MHS principal, Eric Hurelbrink, was unsure how great the turnout would be. “Either way, at 8:20 p.m. the lights will go on to pay tribute to those who are missing out,” Hurelbrink said.

When Illinois governor JB Pritzker extended the stay at home order due to COVID-19 through April 30, this also meant school would remain online and student-athletes likely wouldn’t have a season. Some schools, such as Meridian High School, have participated in the “Be the Light” campaign to honor student-athletes who had their seasons postponed.

“It is rough for everybody so if we can just say ‘we are here for you’ or ‘we are thinking of all of you’ in this way I am all for it,” Eric Hurelbrink, MHS principal said.

On Thursday, April 9, the field lights were turned on at 8:20 p.m., 20:20 military time, for 20 minutes to honor the class of 2020. Anyone was allowed to drive through the parking lot to show support. The idea came from an article that circulated among school administrators and athletic directors about schools in Minnesota, Colorado, and Tennessee who did this to honor anyone who lost their season. 

“It seemed like something simple yet something that could be meaningful to a lot of people,” Hurelbrink said.

Hallie Gates

One student-athlete impacted is Peyton Latham, an MHS senior and pitcher on the softball team. Latham has played softball since she was five years old. Latham said to drive by the fields made her emotional. She never realized how much you could miss something until it’s gone.

“I hope I get to go out and hear my name announced one more time, and I hope I can go out and throw to Jesse [Damery] again and do our legendary handshake,” Latham said.

Hannah Reichert is an MHS senior and goalkeeper on the soccer team. This would have been her second year of high school soccer, however, she’s played since she was a kid. When she found out the season was on pause due to COVID-19, she cried along with a couple of other seniors.

“I had goosebumps driving by the fields because the only thing missing was the athletes playing their game,” Reichert said.

Cheryl Wise, Reichert’s mother, was sad Reichert may not get to play soccer her senior year or have a senior night on the field.

“I enjoyed watching her develop a passion and gain confidence in her ability to play soccer,” Wise said. “She worked so hard and was so excited to play this year.”

Reagan Hunt, a junior and only female distance runner at MHS, has run track for six years. Hunt was hopeful to make more personal records this year. Next season she will miss her senior teammates, especially Derek Mclaughlin, who always pushes her nonstop.

“As we drove by the fields tonight I feel for all the athletes that lost their season,” Hunt said.

Hurelbrink said he does know Tuscola plans to participate and believes they will do it on April 9.

“Who knows, maybe we will start something here,” Hurelbrink said.