By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
MIAMI COUNTY — When Troy Athletic Director Dave Palmer saw a hashtag promoting a way to honor the class of 2020, he knew he wanted Troy High School to be part of it.
He was far from alone, too.
Monday night, Miami County’s high schools joined schools across the state of Ohio in turning on the lights at their respective football stadiums and outdoor athletic complexes in a move intended to honor the senior student-athletes and students in the class of 2020, a class which has seen the rest of its final school year cut short by the coronavirus, COVID-19.
“It was a social media campaign called ‘Be the Light,’” Palmer said. “It’s been going on for a while and appeared to have started out west and worked its way this direction.
“I got together last week in a group chat with the administrators from the other Miami Valley League schools, and I threw it out there. I said Troy was going to take part in it, and all 10 of us were on board.”
Troy, Piqua and Tippecanoe all compete in the MVL in Miami County and turned on their stadium lights, with Greenville, Butler, Sidney, Fairborn, Xenia, Stebbins and West Carrollton also taking part.
Piqua Athletic Director Chip Hare said it was an opportunity to honor those who have earned it.
“This (turning lights on for seniors) is something that has been going on around the country (Light Up America), and the administrators got together and decided to do this,” Hare said. “It is just a way just a way to honor not the just the athletes, but the students at Piqua who are now seniors and have done everything they have done. It was a way to honor them and reflect on everything.”
But the MVL schools were not alone, either, as all of Miami County’s high schools — Troy Christian, Milton-Union, Miami East, Bethel, Covington, Newton and Bradford — also participated, with most posting photos on their respective Twitter accounts under the #BeTheLight hashtag.
Holding the event on Monday night was significant, as well as the time everyone turned on their lights.
“Some schools around the state were doing it later in the week, but Monday appeared to be the big day, being the 20th day of the month for the class of 2020,” Palmer said on Monday. “We’ll turn the lights on at 8:20 p.m., which in military time is ‘2020.’ We will also set the time on the scoreboard to 20:20 and keep the lights on for 20 minutes. I’ve got a CD with our fight song and pop song on it, which I’ll play at 8:20, and then we’ll read off the names of all of our senior athletes. Then at 8:40, we’ll end the time by playing the alma mater, like we do at the end of our home football games.”
Students, parents and fans were encouraged to drive by the stadiums and honk their horns or to stay in their cars in the parking lot to be part of it, while also practicing social distancing guidelines. In addition to the lights at Troy Memorial Stadium, the lights at the baseball and softball fields across the street were also turned on.
Earlier on Monday, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced that the state’s schools — which had been closed since March 13 — would remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, with students finishing off the year learning remotely. Later in the afternoon, the Ohio High School Athletic Association made official the cancellation of the entire spring sports season, which had been postponed indefinitely since March.
“This by no means replaces losing a season — we can’t replace that no matter what we do,” Palmer said. “This is just a way to recognize our seniors and wish them the best.
“It’s just meant to be a simple gesture, a way for us to recognize our senior athletes and what they’ve contributed to our school. It’s just a way to let them know that we care about them a lot.”
The Miami Valley Today’s Rob Kiser contributed to this report.
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