Saluting all the seniors

I’m not sure when I first took special notice of graduating high school seniors.

It might have been after my first full year of reporting prep sports for the L’Anse Sentinel in 1974.

Since Baraga High was my primary coverage area that year, I got to know the athletes and coaches pretty well.

While there was a good overall crop of athletes at BHS, I took particular notice of the seniors.

Maybe it was because of the memory of my final year in school.

I had basically squandered my final year (lack of preparation, focus, etc.) of sports eligibility to have some fun.

I wanted to relay to them that they — with few exceptions — they had just one final shot.

As in the movie “Rudy,” when the Notre Dame football coach told his players that they would always remember their final game because it would be their last one.

And as the final game approached in each sport that year, I thought back to my final game.

Ironically enough, my team was playing a very good Baraga squad in the Class D district basketball tourney at Sherman Gym.

The Vikings, coached by legendary Carl “Cookie” Johnson, had won the Copper Country Conference and had a fine outside shooter in Larry Kangas. Kangas would lead them to the state championship finals.

We managed to hang tough throughout, trailing by six points with three minutes left to play. But Kangas hit four free throws and our season was over.

Walking off the floor that night was one of the worst feelings I can recall to that point of my life.

I’ve seen numerous senior athletes since then in every sport played up here.

This year, there have been standouts like Brendan Middleton of Lake Linden-Hubbell, Maija Sebbas of Hancock, Russ Bjorn of Calumet and Sloane Zenner of Houghton just to name a few.

As I watched the final seconds of all those prep careers tick away, I’ve often wondered what they were feeling inside.

So, here’s one final salute to them — and all the seniors –graduating in the next few days.

You’ve earned it.