Caribou High School shining a light to honor senior athletes

CARIBOU, Maine — With the COVID-19 pandemic placing high school athletics on hold across the country, Caribou High School recently began recognizing its student athletes by shining a light on the track at 8:20 p.m. each Friday for 20 minutes.

In a statement to students and parents released via the Eastern Aroostook RSU 39 Facebook page, Caribou High School Athletic Director Evan Graves said the time 8:20 p.m. is 2020 in military time — a nod to the graduating class of 2020.

“This is a nice symbol for our athletes during this time of uncertainty,” he said. “[It is] one of many great ways to recognize our senior student athletes who’ve worked so hard during their school career to improve on and off the field.”

In addition, Graves is encouraging students and community members to wear school colors or clothing with the school’s Viking mascot and upload the photos with the #caribouvikings or #rsu39 hashtags.

Caribou High School Principal Travis Barnes is working with the class of 2020 on plans for a socially distanced graduation ceremony this year, and commended Graves for his work to recognize the accomplishments of Caribou’s student athletes.

“He is continually thinking about ways to recognize our senior athletes, and I applaud him for that,” Barnes said. “It’s another unintended consequence in this situation that these kids are losing out on their senior sports seasons.”

Graves has also been regularly posting profiles of student athletes on the Caribou High School Athletics Facebook page, which include sports-related photos and answers to questions about what sports they play, their favorite classes and television shows, and their post-high-school plans.

“Evan is not only doing a great job as our athletic director but he is also very cognizant of the fact that these kids have unfortunately lost their senior year,” Barnes said.

Graves said on Thursday that community feedback has been great, and that he is working hard to make sure student athletes are recognized for their accomplishments.

“We have a lot of opportunities at Caribou High School where kids can shine and be successful outside of the classroom, and kids are now missing that, and they’re missing those connections they make with coaches,” Graves said. Studies show that kids need good, positive relationships in their life and they can get that through their participation in sports.”

He said it’s unfortunate to see the spring sports season canceled, as senior athletes are losing out on the opportunity to continue being a part of a team.

“I really feel bad for the seniors,” he said. “They’ve worked so hard, and had an opportunity to compete for championship runs and to be very successful in track, softball, baseball and tennis. For them to lose that opportunity is too bad, but we still want to make sure they’re recognized and that they can be thanked for their years of service and hard work.”

With the coronavirus placing sports events on hold, Graves said he is working not only with the senior class, but also with freshmen, sophomore and junior athletes to make sure they are still connected and involved with the school.

He said the MPA recently allowed coaches to continue communicating with their teams online during this time, as long as the communication is shared with the AD and the team as a whole.

School coaches also have opportunities to take numerous online workshops via Zoom — an online video conferencing app, Graves said, and to learn more information about their sport.

He said the bottom line is that people are coming together to help coaches and student athletes during these uncertain times.

In his weekly online update on April 27, Graves said this is the week that the school would have normally been in full swing with their spring athletic programs, and asked people in the community to remain strong through these difficult times.

“As Mainers we are known for our toughness, our work ethic, and our ability to overcome adversity,” Graves wrote, concluding by asking everyone to be safe, continue working hard and to remain strong and healthy.

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