Fall, for many students, is considered the ‘fun’ season. The crackling leaves and brisk air bring with them Friday night football games, Superfan roadtrips to support the volleyball team, and, of course, homecoming. But for senior athletes, fall is the most bittersweet because even for those who compete in athletics during multiple seasons, their fall sport represents the first goodbye of their final year in high school.
Most seniors have been on the opposite side of at least one other senior night, where they were the ones cheering on their friends and mentors who were competing for the last time in blue and gold. The transition from spectator to star of the show can feel sudden. “It was surreal that this time we were the ones being celebrated,” said Maddie Bahmueller, volleyball senior. Cross country captain Carley Cirafesi echoed this sentiment, noting “Everyone was directing their praise and memories towards us, which was nice but also emotional.” Energy and emotions always run high for that final home contest of the season but each graduating athlete finds a new sentimentality in their hearts. Tennis captain Minali Tare described how her senior night experience has developed. “My freshman and sophomore year, it didn’t have a personal effect on me,” said Tare. “Last year was hard; I was close to the seniors and it was sad to see our time together end. This year was like that but it’s different because I’m not just saying goodbye to people, I’m saying goodbye to representing UM in this sport.”
As painful as senior night can be, there is also plenty of happiness that comes with finishing out a high school career. Bahmueller and Cirafesi both cited their teammates as the best part of senior night, and described the joy found in knowing that the people they loved were beside them from start to finish. “This isn’t the end for us” commented Cirafesi, who feels she has found a family with the cross country girls. Tare pointed to a specific moment that truly made her senior night special. “We started our match 30 minutes late because the underclassmen all said parting words about each of the seniors,” she laughed. “The other team probably wasn’t too happy but it was the sweetest thing.” These moments are a reminder to athletes of what they have worked so hard for over their four years as Vikings and shows the impact that they have had on the younger athletes who are now just as sad to see them go as they were to say goodbye to former graduating classes.
For these seniors, leaving behind the people who they have laughed, cried, struggled, and succeeded with may be the most bittersweet of all, because when asked what most difficult about senior night was, all three responded the same way. “I’m gonna miss my team so much” said Bahmueller after her final match, as did Tare adding, “It’s hard realizing that I’ll never be here with these amazing girls and coaches again.” Cirafesi explained how senior night made her more aware of how little time she has left with her teammates. “We won’t ever have another season together,” she said. “This amazing era will be over.”
It isn’t easy to say goodbye to an era, to four years of endless memories. But the end of this chapter marks the start of a new one, so our Viking seniors are preparing to carry the wisdom and heart that they have found during their time competing for Upper Merion on to inspire wherever they go next just as much as they have here.