The bittersweet journey of senior athletes


Harry Maxon

Class of 2023 student athletes

Maja Cykowska, news section editor

Bittersweet. A perfect description of the feeling that stands by every high school senior athlete at the end of the season. Being a part of a high school athletic team is a journey, which stays in the heart of every student athlete forever. Many of us will recall that experience later on in our lives, as one of the most memorable. Senior athletic season is simply filled with a variety of emotions. Senior season is full of joy, intensity, sacrifice, tears of sadness, happiness and sentimental moments. All these feelings change every step of the way and that’s the beauty of being a senior athlete.

Many seniors start their seasons with a strong realization that it’s their last one. With the beginning of a senior season comes huge pressure and expectations. As seniors, they should feel comfortable. They are familiar with the sport and their team. However, it is not as simple. There are expectations and responsibilities coming from being a senior on an athletic team. Seniors are supposed to be examples: role models for younger players. They should be leaders who want to make the most out of their senior season, and satisfy their teammates, coaches and themselves because “it’s our last chance to help the team,” Zuzu Bikahi, senior athlete, varsity tennis, soccer and flag football player said. 

Then comes the time when athletes get to start doing something they enjoy the most. They get back to their in-season routines, like they do every year, forgetting about the pressure for a while. The athletic season requires a lot of commitment, effort and time but it’s worth it. 

“It’s time consuming, especially during a busy senior year,” Paola Flores-Fuentes, a senior-athlete and a varsity girls golf player said. “But I chose to focus on all the positives: making new friends, being part of the team and getting a chance to forget about all the stresses of college decisions and essay writing through a fun sport.”

For those few enjoyable hours after school, seniors get to forget about exams, grades and college applications, which is a great way to deal with a stressful school routine. 

Later on in the season, athletes bond with their teammates and coaches again. Every athlete knows that feeling. The chemistry between the members of an athletic team simply differs from any other group anyone could be in. They share the same passion, have the same goals, and often struggle with the same challenges. And starting now, they will be spending hours with each other every day for the next few months whether it’s on the court, field, track, in the locker room or on the bus on your way to games and matches.

After a regular season comes the award and a summary of their varsity careers for the seniors—senior night—often described as the most bittersweet experience in a high school athletic career. They walk into the gym full of decorations, balloons and posters prepared by their younger teammates. It’s their day. Everyone is there to celebrate them and their “last” game at home.

“I felt grateful,” Bikahi said. “I knew I was being celebrated by my teammates, parents and friends, which felt really special.” Hearing those emotional speeches from coaches and teammates, seeing tears of joy mixed with sadness. All of these are a big part of this memorable tradition that makes every athlete feel special. 

 The most important part of the season comes after senior night. It’s playoff time. The seniors have been working for that moment for the last four years. They want to do their best and leave everything they have on the field, court or track. At this time of the year, every game can be the last one.

And finally it comes, the last game ever played on a high school team. The most heartbreaking moment of the season. “I burst into tears right after the end of the match,” Flores-Fuentes said. Now, it doesn’t matter how far the seniors have come or if they’re planning to continue their athletic careers in college. It was the last high school game in their lives. 

“I was trying not to cry. After four years of playing a sport, it’s coming to an end,” Bikahi said. 

The season is over. Later on, many athletes reflect about their careers and experience. It’s hard to abandon the routine practiced for the last months and keep yourself busy. They don’t see their teammates as often as they used to. 

The chapter ends there, but senior athletes can take away unforgettable memories, friendships and lessons learned throughout the experience.

“It’s going to take a while to forget, but now I can only look at our group [the team] and say that we built an amazing program and I hope people will continue developing it next year,”  Bernardo Atalla, a senior athlete and varsity soccer player said.