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This was supposed to be it. Our year. One last run.

Every season, every practice, every moment leading up to this. The preparation in the off season, all of the conditioning and weight lifting would finally pay off one last time. This was the chance to be a true leader. The last chance to make your mark, to leave your legacy behind in a program that had shaped and molded you into what you are and who you have yet to become.

They said high school would go by fast, but they never said how quickly and abruptly it would end. Senior year is supposed to be the year where everyone looks up to you, and you carry your team on your back through indescribable victory and crushing losses. We were supposed to have our Senior Day, signs, banners and balloons appreciating us. Packed sidelines, sweet spring air, and nothing but pride to be representing your team would have been day to day festivities.

We were supposed to enjoy pasta parties, long bus rides with blaring music and obnoxious singing, and hype pregame rituals. Banquets and awards ceremonies were supposed to be held to recognize us for the untiring work we put into our own school, to showcase our success. Some were lucky enough to experience a fall season, while the rest of our year was taken far too soon.

Maybe we took these days for granted. We have been cheated of our final moments and memories on a team that has brought sheer happiness and instilled untouched gratitude to be part of something so successful. The feeling of having a whole team behind you, your family supporting you, and the ability to be a voice for your school’s athletics is unlike any other.

Senior year was supposed to lead us to fame and glory, it was supposed to be filled with experiences that cannot be artificially created. It was supposed to be the best season yet. But it was taken. We are left feeling voiceless, wondering what we are left with in our final moments. It feels like nothing.

Who are we without our team, without our school, without our home turf? Are we simply just the number on our back, or the school showcased on our chests? It's scary to have everything you’ve ever known, and everything you’ve looked forward to, taken away. But I can promise you, we are stronger than this. We are bigger than this. Student athletes, we are more than what was given to us and far greater than the circumstances of our senior year. We are powerful, we are real, and we are on the cusp of becoming real people in this world. Being a part of a team for your school has prepared you to be brave in beginning your next chapter.

Everything ended early because we already have everything we need to start fresh. We are already prepared to take on anything headed our direction. We have had coaches make impressions on us over the years to shape us into real people, filled with respect and resiliency. Grit and grace. No amount of words could express the gratitude for our coaches and athletic directors. They simply paved the way for us.

We are not defined by our current situation or by our past, but by what we make of the cards we have been dealt. We will be defined by how we will blossom into young adults capable of futures without limitations. This small bump is the first true test of our character. Our high school experience has been the best three and a half years of our lives, thanks to the people who have screamed for us on the sidelines, and picked us up on the field. It has allowed us to create real relationships, and to be part of something bigger than ourselves.

So while this was not the outcome we wanted, the final whistle has been blown, the buzzer has signaled the end. We still must hold our heads high, and do what we do best: fight. Now is our time to become something more. But now, this is our opportunity to grow and overcome, learn that we are more than a victim of circumstances. We are real people and we have become strong and powerful young adults ready to conquer the game of life.

Meghan Pellegrino is a senior at Mainland Regional High School. She played varsity soccer and varsity lacrosse for Mainland all four years. She lives in Somers Point with her parents and twin brother, Ryan. She and her brother are attending Delaware Valley University in the fall to play soccer, and Meg will also play lacrosse.

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