By Jeremy McDonald
MT. ANGEL, Ore.– Community is family. Family is community.
Kennedy had the perfect monster, the perfect set-up this season to possibly make it to the 2A/1A State Championship Game for the third-year running this Spring. A week into their journey coming on the heels of their 2A State Championship wins in Volleyball and Basketball, the perfect monster and its set-up was halted.
They joked about it Tuesday, a signed hung on the back-stop that read, ‘Final Score: Covid-19, Kennedy-0’. Their actual scoreboard read: 2020 with another poster, to the front and left of the ‘Final Score’ poster of their 2020 Trojan squad and another to the facing right side of the ‘Final Score’ poster with pictures of their three seniors.
People are calling this ‘the new normal’ after everything came to a halt on that mid-March day, throwing a monkey wrench in what everyone knew. But here was Kennedy, coming in their trucks, SUV’s and cars to support Sophia Carley, Emily Cuff and Grace Schaecher. The latter two were in attendance Tuesday evening.
In any other year, they’ll be in the heat of the postseason run at this time. This year however, it’s their one and only meeting as a team was in front of the field where they’ve won eight league titles since 2007.
“We’re a big family. There was no competition between…it was all like, we were together for our one goal,” said Cuff. “We kind of knew that we would comeback and be strong, we know each other so well and we’ve played for so many years. I think we always knew we were going to be strong together.”
“Everyone is supportive, that’s what awesome. Our whole community is out here tonight, it’s Senior night. It just brings that whole family atmosphere back together, which is really awesome,” adds Schaecher
It was perfect softball weather. The late Spring wind blew threw Mount Angel with the heat of the day fading with the Sun out to the West, it was hard to imagine that bats weren’t cracking on a ball and the snap of a glove weren’t echoing from the Kennedy compound on this day.
Bittersweet is only scratching the surface of how they were feeling about this year and the potential they had. But they’re walking away knowing they’re thankful for the opportunity that they’ve had playing at Kennedy.
“It was super hard, but I understand why it happened, we were excited because…no one graduated, everyone was coming back and it was like ‘this was our year’,” said Schaecher. “We played together all last year, we had a few new freshmen coming in that will help elevate our team and we were just ready.
“But I’m definitely thankful for everything that happened. It’s not exactly what we wanted, but I’m happy with how I ended my High School career.”
Cuff will be heading to California in a few months, playing at Porterville Junior College and Schaecher will be going to Chemeketa Community College down the road in Salem. Leaving behind a program that reached the Semi-Final game three years ago with their two State Finalist appearances the last two with a solid core of returners like Hailey Arritola and Elise Suing to carry the torch from those that came behind them.
“I feel like we did what we needed to do and I can only hope that it’ll keep getting stronger as the years go by,” said Cuff of the program she’s leaving behind.
As their Senior Year sets off into the setting Sun, the family and community they came to grow fond of at Kennedy will be something they’ll hang onto for the rest of their lives.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald