Graduation or track? A decision that shouldn’t have to be made

The Switzerland of Ohio Local School District Board of Education and members of the River High School senior class owe Pilots’ senior track and field athletes a major apology.

At Thursday’s meeting, the board finalized its graduation dates and set River’s for Friday, May 24.

Unfortunately, that’s the same date of the Division III Eastern District Track finals at Newcomerstown High School.

So, now the seniors on the River boys’ and girls’ track teams have a decision to make.

Do they compete in the district with hopes of eventually reaching the state meet or walk in a graduation ceremony that signifies the ending of 13 academic years?

A group foresaw this problem and approached Switzerland of Ohio and River officials about the possibility of changing the date.

According to Switzerland of Ohio Schools Superintendent Larry Elliott, River High School principal Ed Trifinoff conducted a survey of the senior class to guage its thoughts on changing the date.

However, a majority said it wanted to keep the date as it was. The school board considered that when it made its decision to stick with the scheduled date.

I guess those students, who voted to keep the date, could care less about sports and maybe even less about the classmates they’ve gone to school with for 13 years.

Again, it’s just a true shame.

Seeing that’s how some of their classmates feel, it should really simplify the decision for those senior track and field competitors.

To me, the decision becomes: mail me the diploma because I’m heading to the track meet.

However, it’s a decision that shouldn’t have to be made and a vote that shouldn’t have to be taken.

Each year, this is a problem for schools and student-athletes.

I’ve been to the state track meet when athletes receive their medals and then are presented their diplomas.

However, these are decisions that student-athletes shouldn’t have to make.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association works on a five-year calendar, meaning dates for post-season events can be found for many years down the road. Plus, anyone who follows spring sports knows the OHSAA wants its state tournament weekend on the first weekend when both days are in June, which is why the state meet is actually a week later than normal.

The dates are out there in ample time for school districts to set graduations on days where student-athletes don’t have to make a decision or so it doesn’t have to come down to a vote.

We realize sometimes these conflicts are unavoidable, especially in the spring team sports. More specifically, a baseball or softball team could get hot, win a few games in the tournament and advance somewhat unpredictably or weather could dictate things.

However, in the sport of track and field, the dates are set and etched in stone.

One prime example of who this decision affects the most is Cassidy McCullough.

McCullough is the defending state champion in the 300-meter low hurdles. She and her family have tried to get the date changed, but no one was budging.

So now, McCullough will, in all likelihood, miss her graduation or have to run the hurdles, hop in the car and drive as quickly as possible back to Hannibal to maybe catch the latter part of the ceremony.

In covering McCullough over the years, you’re not going to tell that young lady that she’s going to miss a chance to qualify back to the regional and then onto the state meet where she’ll hope to defend her state title.

I realize she’s just one example, but there are other seniors on the squad, too with the same decision to make and maybe, for those kids, it’s not as easy a decision to make.

River High School track and field seniors deserve better from their classmates and their school board.

Staskey can be reached at