Despite all levels of government reducing several coronavirus-related regulations, the global pandemic still serves up a number of limitations for society. One of these includes restrictions with social gatherings.
On Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced the state’s second phase of reopening while limiting the spread of COVID-19, which provided the opportunity for the Prairiland Patriots to hold their sports banquet under different and unique circumstances.
“You try to work with the regulations in place, the people have to do it and I think it all went great,” Prairiland ISD superintendent Jeff Ballard said. “We wanted to give the seniors closure and honor all of the athletes, and I think it went well. It’s hard to regulate the social distancing and other guidelines, but it’s something we needed to enforce and it’s up to the public to uphold. Despite this being a different experience for everyone involved, I think it was great.”
Even though the drive-in banquet at the high school parking lot was uncharted territory for everyone involved, the turnout was good and the effort to put it on was stellar.
“When these new phases came out, we saw an opportunity for these kids to have closure with their respective sports,” Prairiland ISD athletic director Steven Weddle said. “Every coach was so supportive. I didn’t hear a single negative statement, everyone was excited about the opportunity for these kids. I can honestly say every coach did this for these kids.”
Weddle said he estimated a headcount of around 200 people, but was more pleased to see the number of smiling faces in the crowd, which was a rewarding feeling for him and the coaching staff.
The students were once worried about not getting to attend the banquet but were highly appreciative of the sacrifices their teachers, coaches, and others made to make it all possible.
“It showed us how much all of our coaches care about us along with all the sports and everything else we’ve done,” said Audrey Gray, a Lady Patriots senior who played varsity volleyball and softball. “I liked how they recognized everyone who didn’t get the chance to compete in a spring sport along with those who already played their sports.”
Senior athlete Connor Sessums won the school’s male athlete of the year award, while seniors Baylor Sessums and Elizabeth Preston shared the honor for female athlete of the year. Fellow senior Brayden Oats won the Fighting Patriot Award, while Gray received the same honor on the girls’ side.
The banquet opened with a prayer, then each of the fall sports coaches handed out superlative honors to their respective athletes. The spring sport athletes did not receive individual awards due to the shortened seasons, but all spring student-athletes were recognized. The banquet closed with a prayer.
Ballard also announced that the school, in cooperation with COVID-19 guidelines, will be able to have a public graduation on the school’s football field. Ballard said the graduation will take place Saturday, June 13 at either 10 a.m. or 8 p.m. depending on the weather forecast.