OREM — Fremont High School’s graduation ceremonies took place Monday at the Dee Events Center.
Graduations draw friends and family from all over, and there were thousands of people — friends, family — in the arena, waiting to watch the hundreds of students walk across the stage.
Five students who weren’t at Fremont’s graduation were instead at a college baseball stadium 70 miles south in Orem that’s sandwiched between a bustling highway and a bustling parkway.
“Well first I was kind of annoyed by it, right?” said Nate Hill, whose son, Jaxon, is a senior on Fremont’s baseball team. “As a parent, you wait until they get to this age, you want to see them walk across the stage. My son’s love of baseball, this was only fitting for him ... this is the only place he’d want to be right now: graduating on a baseball field in the state championships.”
On Tuesday, Weber High School’s graduation ceremonies began at 2 p.m.
For the WHS seniors who played on the boys soccer team, kickoff of their state semifinal matchup in Draper — 47 miles south of the Dee Events Center — was at 2 p.m.
Situations like this happen every year where athletic commitments force students and their families to miss graduation and make another trek to a stadium.
The Fremont baseball and Weber soccer seniors made the most of it.
Ten minutes before Fremont’s baseball game Monday at Utah Valley University against Syracuse, the five seniors — Brayden Smedley, Jaxon Hill, Taylor Ellis, Sage Wayment and Jadynn Judkins — donned blue caps and gowns over their baseball uniforms and stood in the dugout.
Their parents gathered at the backstop. Fremont’s athletic director Corey Melaney and baseball coach Garrett Clark stood near home plate and handed each of the boys their diploma after their names were called over the P.A. system.
It wasn’t how everyone thought graduation would go. But the small ceremony turned out pretty well.
Smedley, Hill, Ellis, Wayment and Judkins stood in their caps and gowns, smiled for photos and jogged back to the dugouts with their smiles still visible.
“They actually were happy when we went to them letting them know it was going to happen, they were very excited. Not one of them gave the old, ‘Oh man’ about it,” Clark said.
The only thing that didn’t go Fremont’s way that day was the game itself, ending in an 8-1 win for Syracuse. Even then, it wasn’t a damper on what Clark called a really cool moment.
“If I ever had a chance to do that my senior year, I think that’d be awesome to be able to graduate where we love to be, which is on the baseball field. I don’t know that they always love to be in school,” Clark said.
At Juan Diego High in Draper on Tuesday, the mood for Weber was obviously jubilant after the Warriors’ 3-1 win over Pleasant Grove booked them a spot in Thursday’s state championship game.
“At first we were kind of bummed out, but really we love to play soccer so we were excited we had the chance to come down here and it kind of fueled us to make sure we wanted to win to make it worth it. It’s been great,” Weber senior midfielder Austin Allen said, visibly drenched after the game was played in a driving rainstorm.
Then he smiled.
“Now we don’t really care as much because we’re going to Rio Tinto,” he said.
Weber tried to get the soccer game moved to a different time to accommodate graduation. That didn’t happen, which frustrated some parents. Warriors soccer head coach Jan Swift said Weber’s administration did an “awesome” thing.
“We had an awards assembly on Monday, (they were) given their diplomas on Monday in the awards assembly so the school could recognize them both as a senior and as a soccer player. It helped a ton,” Swift said.
One potential solution to avoid something like this in the future is to start school a week or two later in August, pushing graduation well after a potentially conflicting athletic contest.
However, the recent trend indicates that more school districts are starting school in the middle of August and even early August for some ungodly reason.
Pushing back the start-of-school date likely won’t happen, despite Fremont and Weber’s seniors starting their “summer” vacation this week by wondering, ‘where’s my raincoat?’
(School districts that start school obscenely early are a whole other topic, albeit an extremely relevant and contentious one.)
Even if the Utah High School Activities Association pushed the high school sports calendar back a week, which would be welcome for girls soccer teams that play most of their seasons in sweltering heat, it’s likely the state championships would conflict with some other district’s graduations.
In this year’s case, the Davis School District’s graduations are next week.
Here’s another idea. Instead of the soccer semifinals’ times be predetermined, why not have them be “to be determined,” then work with the eight semifinal soccer teams in 6A and 5A to see if anyone has a major conflict?
As I was interviewing Austin Allen near the entrance to Juan Diego’s football stadium, his father Brad walked over and introduced himself.
He made a great point that it’s easier to rearrange a soccer game than it is for baseball and softball, whose state tournaments both feature a one-loss bracket and a plethora of games that not only depend on the outcome of each other, but also depend entirely on weather.
As we’re seeing this week once again, Mother Nature is in complete control.
It’s unfortunately unavoidable. Some team, somewhere has to miss graduation each year for an athletic contest. Some don’t make the best of it. Others do.
Fremont’s baseball seniors and Weber’s soccer seniors certainly didn’t mind too much.