Everyone knows a 2020 graduate, whether it is high school, college or even kindergarten. Each one of them will have an interesting story to tell years from now how COVID-19 changed their graduating year. I know several of these graduates, however one of them sticks out to me. Kayce Jo Mayes is the daughter of my cousin and lives in the tiny south Texas town of Karnes City. Her senior year was very unique with more than just the COVID obstacle.
Kayce started out as a four-sport athlete competing in volleyball, basketball, track and golf. When she saw the success, she had on the track, she let go of golf to concentrate on her running. She has earned numerous honors, medals and recognition throughout the first 3
years of high school in each sport. Kayce was one of the hardest working athletes on the court at any given time. The hardworking mentality was second nature for her and fighting through was also. During all of these games and track meets, Kayce was fighting through something else.
In April of her junior year she began to experience some pain in her back. Like many high school athletes, she tried to fight through the pain, but nothing helped. She rested most of the summer in hopes the pain would be alleviated. In August of her senior year, Kayce started physical therapy and was doing well, even started to run. She decided to play in a couple of volleyball games just to see if she could withstand the pain. It was slightly different because she did not play her true position, however she needed to know if she could physically get through a game. A week later she was back in the doctor's office with excruciating pain. That is when the doctor told her exactly what she did not want to hear. The amount of pain that came back, as quick as it did with heavily modified drills, led the doctor to the decision that it was in her best interest to retire from sports.
That is not what she wanted to hear. It was a stab in the gut for her to hear that she was confined to the sidelines and the only help she could give her teammates was to cheer them on. As hard as it was, that is exactly what she did. She did her best to lead her team in a different role. It is not how she saw her senior year of athletics playing out.
Kayce had to accept a different path of what she had imagined for her senior year of athletics. She admits that jealously kicked in a few times as she watched the girls that she had played with since 3rd grade and she was forced to be on the bench. It just did not seem fair. Little did she know, this was only the beginning of a wild and unusual senior year.
Like many students, Kayce was excited about an extended spring break when it was announced that schools were shutting down temporarily due to COVID-19. She had no idea that it was about to turn in to what it has. When the decision to cancel the remainder of the year was announced, that is when she got that second stab in the gut. Kayce had worked hard for twelve years and was devastated that she wasn’t going to be able to walk across the stage to celebrate all of that hard work. Her athletic career was taken away from her and now the celebration of her graduating, finishing out her senior year with her classmates, was being yanked from her as well. There were tears and it simply, it just didn’t seem fair.
Dealing with the loss of her athletic career was a tough pill to swallow. She didn’t get the opportunity to play on her home court one last time, knowing it would be her last time. Now she was losing the rest of her senior year. No more classes. No more walking the halls with her classmates. No goodbyes. Only a wait and see. Kayce admits that having to go through the disappointment of her high school athletic career coming to an end helped her in dealing with the cancellations due to COVID-19. She accepted her senior year wouldn’t be what she wanted athletically and that made dealing with the COVID cancellations a little easier.
Although she won’t get the end of year celebrations like other senior classes, the teachers, administration and town made sure to let the seniors know they were appreciated, and their hard work was recognized. Banners with their graduation pictures were displayed both in front of the school and throughout downtown. The administration went by every senior’s house to put a yard sign in the front, acknowledging the graduate. She also happens to be a top ten graduate and received a special sign along with her plaques and medals from the honors she earned this year.
I have always believed that there is a lesson to be learned in any situation. Kayce now knows that she cannot plan everything and expect it to happen as planned. Life will throw curves, is unpredictable and you have to accept it and move forward. As she said, “You can’t mope about it. You have to make the best of the situation.”
I believe that is a lesson for everyone. The time you spend moping about something, is time wasted. I was already impressed by the way Kayce was handling her athletic situation. Going through something like this only prepares one for other obstacles to overcome later in life. I have no doubt, that whatever comes Kayce’s way, she won’t mope about it.