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Senior night: Wahluke students have a chance to look back – and forward

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | January 19, 2022 1:00 AM

MATTAWA — The senior year of high school is, in part, a recognition of change. High school will be done; kids will be moving on.

Everybody is looking ahead, of course, college applications and deciding on potential careers and all that, but senior year is also about looking back.

Senior Night is about looking forward, at least a little, but also about looking back.

Friday was Senior Night for the Wahluke High School girls and boys basketball teams, and they played games. It was a chance to recognize the seniors for the work they’ve put in and how far they’ve come and their contributions to the team and to WHS.

The class of 2022 has had a bumpy ride, likely the fault of the COVID-19 pandemic, which slammed into its sophomore year. The basketball players were a little luckier than the kids who played spring sports, since the season was completed when the coronavirus arrived.

But it sent Wahluke, and every other district in the state, into distance learning for months and completely scrambled the sports seasons for two years. All 2020-21 sports were jammed into spring 2021, with football in March and basketball in May. The pandemic is still having an impact, with an extensive testing regimen and players not knowing if the game scheduled for the next day will be canceled.

No question it’s been bumpy, as Maximiliano Urrutia acknowledged.

“It’s been rough – some ups and downs for sure,” he said after Friday’s game. “It’s been a crazy road.”

The class of 2022 missed out on its junior season, he said, and that was tough. But the seniors also appreciate what they got. Senior Celeste Gomez said she got to play all four years of high school, and is getting a full senior season to the extent possible.

“The biggest thing is just having your season,” Gomez said. “It’s really meaningful.”

All the ups and downs strengthened the bonds between the players, and with the coaches, she said.

“It’s more like a family. It’s not just a team, it’s a family,” she said.

Susan Marlow’s granddaughter Ellee Marlow is part of the class of 2022, and Susan Marlow said she was impressed with the way the team coped with adversity.

“I think they rose to the occasion, which is amazing to me,” Marlow said.

Alondra Nieves is a WHS graduate, with a sister, Abigail Nieves, in the class of 2022. It was rough knowing her sister’s high school experience was so much different, Alondra Nieves said. But she, too, was impressed by her sister’s perseverance and the team’s.

“They’re just so strong,” Alondra Nieves said.

Abigail Nieves said it was pretty tough sometimes, practicing then not being able to play, and sometimes not being able to practice.

“But we just kept pushing,” she said.

There were some lessons out of it all.

“What did we learn? Man,” Gomez said, pausing.

Basketball taught her about losing, as well as winning, she said.

“A loss is never a loss. It’s a lesson,” she said.

Abigail Nieves said the team was different every season – kids graduated, other kids played a couple years and went on to other things. Players were moved from team to team as the season went along. She had to learn how to work with new people every year, she said.

As seasons were shortened and games were canceled, Nieves said she learned something else. She learned the value of sticking with it, she said.

“You’ve just got to adapt to things,” Urrutia said. “The more you adapt, the easier it will be for you.”

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at cschweizer@columbiabasinherald.com.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Wahluke High School senior Denise Caro (center), mom Baudelia Caro and dad Rafael Caro at half court on basketball Senior Night on Friday.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Arnoldo Ramos, of the Wahluke High School class of 2022, at half court on the basketball Senior Night on Friday.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Abigail Nieves (left), a senior at Wahluke High School, stands with her dad Ray Nieves on basketball Senior Night on Friday.

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Cheryl Schweizer/Columbia Basin Herald

Maximilliano Urrutia (left), a senior at Wahluke High School, greets his brother Miguel Urrutia (right) at half court on basketball Senior Night on Friday.