By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.–Barely four hours after the OSAA made it official that the 2020 Spring Sports season, I found myself pulling into Stayton High School at 8:30pm, putting on my press pass for the first time in about a month and started walking towards the lights at the football stadium.
But I wasn’t seeing a distance race or a shot put throw. No Randy Nyquist or Devin Holmes coaching up a football player or girls soccer athlete. Not even Chris Shields raising his voice from the sidelines during a guy’s soccer game.
The parking lot by the softball field was empty as I made my way to the light like a moth on a Summer night.
It was eerie silent on this Wednesday evening where two of the Eagles eight or so lights were on. As I approached the gate, passing the grass field where all the Varsity Soccer Games were held five years ago the first time I went to Stayton to cover a game…the two homestand lights flooded the center of the field, where the Stayton logo was.
Athletic Director Darren Shryock was on the track with Nyquist as the Eagles AD started the first of a two-month honoring of their student-athletes and their Senior athletes.
“Joining this movement is just one small way we can honor our seniors. I know many of them are understandably devastated regarding today’s news. My heart breaks for them! I know how important athletics are to our kids, parents, and our community,” Shryock said over an Email prior to Wednesday’s lighting.
It’s apart of the ‘Be The Light’ Movement. Something that States like Colorado, Montana and now some schools in Oregon are doing to recognize the hard work and sacrifice of the student-athlete’s in the community that they live in. To make sure you are a light to others through this hard time and that you are not alone through this adversity.
8:20, when the lights come on, is 20:20 in military time, fitting for this year’s Senior Class.
I stayed for about a minute, took a picture of the field and the lights through the gate and started my way back to my car down the throughway I just walked up. I saw headlights, so I moved aside of the road a little bit more.
The car stopped, I walked by and someone peak their head out. It was Stayton Senior Cristian Vasquez.
Vasquez’ final year of throwing had just been canceled a few hours earlier when he was at work and he had a feeling to come by on this April night. We started talking and for the first time since March 16 talking to Sheridan’s Kaden Eggers, I hit record on my phone and this is what Vasquez said of the lights:
“Just looking back at life. For me as a football player it brings back so many memories on the football field these past few years here,” said Vasquez, who was still in his car. “It just reminds us that we all left it on the field. Everybody from Volleyball to Football to anything. Every and any sport that played here and the Senior class…knowing that we played our hearts out.
“Those are the memories that come back and when we come back to this field and think of football. You eat, sleep, you play football. You think of soccer. You think of the soccer seniors. You go on the basketball court, they’re redoing that and seeing that there’s lights on for us and remembering everything…it’s just amazing.”
What started as a quick trip out, turned into staying until they shut-off the lights at 8:50 talking to Vasquez about sports and talked to the Cramer’s who came over a few minutes before shut-off. Their youngest, Nolan, is a Senior at Stayton who saw the lights from their place down the road.
“This moment means a ton as it’s really some of the last times I’ll see the field lit up while I’m still going to the school. It reminds me of the memories I’ve and the moments I’ve shared on that field,” said Nolan Cramer.
It shows how tight-knit the community is adds Senior Logan Classen, who played football and basketball, as the first week of the lights drew to a close Wednesday night. Stayton will go every Wednesday at 8:20, lasting for 30 minutes each week until June 10. Ben Rash, the Quarterback for the Eagles Football team and played with Classen on the basketball team as well; adds that them joining this movement not just honors them as Senior athletes, but helps honor the Seniors around the world as well.
Neighboring Regis will go Friday’s at 8:20 until June, but won’t go until next Friday with their first ‘Be The Light’ event with Good Friday coming up this Friday entering the Easter holiday.
“We just think it’s a great way to honor an amazing group of kids. They are having to endure something tremendously difficult, and we know how much they are sacrificing in this trying time,” said Matt Wiltsey, Regis’ AD. “It’s awesome to see so many schools around the state honoring students in this way and we are happy to be a part of it.”
Nearby Silverton High School will started theirs Thursday night as well at 8pm and will go an hour for the Foxes Student-Athlete’s at the Pine Athletic Complex. It will go nightly until April 15 where they’ll go weekly on Wednesday’s.