Four members of the Clay High School softball team are skipping their own high school graduation to compete in a state regional final, and they will be rewarded for it.
GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Florida — *BIG UPDATE: The team won the game they missed their graduation. They will move on to the Final Four, which begins next week.
The end of the school year usually means we’re in the middle of two important seasons: graduation season and state championship season.
A group of young girls from Clay County had a very difficult decision to make, but after they decided to skip their own high school diploma to compete in a regional softball final, their high school rallied around them.
Over the next few weeks, many images of caps, gowns and graduates will dominate the social media feeds of thousands of families in our area.
But while their classmates prepare to cross a stage, four seniors from the Clay High School softball team make a five-hour trip west for a Regional Finals playoff game in Pensacola.
“We’ve been texting back and forth the whole way through,” Clay’s lead 3rd baseman Ema Martin said. “We’re all super excited, we’re ready to make it happen and we’re ready to win, we really, really want it.”
But to play tonight’s game, they must miss their own high school graduation, which is scheduled for tonight.
“I certainly didn’t think I would miss graduation, but I’m glad we’re still playing the sport we love so much,” said Senior Clay Senior 1st baseman Abby Rutledge.
It was the softball field that brought these classmates together, and they say if they’re going to miss their graduation, they’d rather be with their sisters on the team than anyone else.
“It was a very easy decision for me to make,” said senior clay shortstop Gabby Wiseman. “I’ve played with all of them since I was 8, they’re all my best friends.”
And no matter what happens in Friday night’s game, these best friends are guaranteed to have at least one more high school together. The school lets them cross the stage during a special graduation on Sunday.
“I’m going to get the seniors to the gym at 7 p.m. like we would for a normal graduation,” Clay Softball head coach Matt Lewis said. “We’ll be booing and yelling in the hallways as we normally would.”
“Honestly, I think it works perfectly because not only do we get to go to the state, but we can also invite whoever we want to our own graduation on Sunday,” said Clay’s main receiver Sydney. Davis. “The spotlight is kind of on us.”
There are actually seniors on the team, Kierstyn Mann opted to stay home to walk across the stage with the rest of his class.
Lewis says he’s proud of the choice the young woman made.
“She feels like she’s letting the team down when she graduates, but she’s not,” Lewis said. “As I texted her last night, she, at 18, taught a 52-year-old a hard lesson, that sometimes the toughest choices in life aren’t the easiest, and they’re not not the most popular, but she did it, and she’s going to stick with it.”
Sunday’s special graduation ceremony is also open to the public, so the community can cheer on girls who missed their graduation ceremony.
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