By Dave Morrison

A thoughtful and insightful look back at career highlights and the Covid-19 pandemic by senior athletes from around the region, who Tuesday found out they would not return to school.

Today we hear from Bluefield’s Kaulin Parris, Greater Beckley’s Grace Mitchell, Wyoming East’s Caden Lookabill and Jake Bishop and Independence’s Kennedy James.

This is the fourth in a series and we wanted to give the seniors an opportunity to look back in their own words. 

They might not get to finish their senior year but are proving to be winners nonetheless.

Bluefield’s Kaulin Parris was one of the state’s top kickers and punters and helped Bluefield advance to three straight state championship games, including the 2017 state title. He also was on three state tournament basketball teams, and was one win away from a fourth when the virus shut everything down. He has signed to play football at WVU.

“Winning the state championship (in 2017 was a highlight). Losing Tony (teammate Tony Webster, who passed away last year) was very hard and made us work harder as a team in honor of him.

“I really thought we had a good chance to make some noise upstate this year. This virus has really messed up a lot of things, I just wish it would’ve started a few weeks later so we could’ve finished basketball season.”

Wyoming East’s Jake Bishop was a two-sport standout for the Warriors, the leader in receptions and TD receptions. He will play football at the University of Charleston.

“My favorite highlights from my high school career would have to be the Nicholas County game senior year, Oak Hill game senior year (he caught the game-wining pass at the buzzer), and playoff game senior year. They were all great experiences. Also, Westside basketball game my sophomore year was a great one, too. 

“As for the virus, it’s crazy, nothing like anyone alive has ever seen, and it’s causing a lot of problems, but thankfully people are working together and making sacrifices so things are starting to look optimistic.”

Grace Mitchell was one of the most prolific scorers of all time at Greater Beckley and was among the leaders in the state this past season. She recently signed at Concord.

“My favorite career highlights would be scoring 1,000 points, and signing with Concord. 

“I feel really bad for the seniors that made it to states and didn’t get to finish it out. This virus has caused a lot of sadness for classes of 2020, but it is something that we can later tell people that we made it through together.”

Caden Lookabill had a huge year for the playoff-bound Wyoming East football squad, leading the team in receiving yards (564) and yards per reception (20.1) and was second in receptions (28) and touchdowns 5).

“Some of my favorite memories were definitely the bus rides over to the games, obviously the westside game because there’s just so much hype around that game it’s crazy. Some of my favorite highlights were the pick-6 against Westside, or the crazy play me and (QB Seth) Ross had towards the end of the James Monroe game.

“This virus has effect my senior year so much and the bad part is idk how much I’ll get to see some of my friends after we graduate. Also I can’t see my friends any right now because I’m on quarantine and I just wanna make the most of this year as I can before I go off to college.”

Kennedy James, Independence softball:

The past four years have flown by.  “Playing softball for Independence High School has been a phenomenal experience.  Not only did I love every opportunity I had on the mound but I equally enjoyed being surrounded by a special bunch of girls united to achieve the same goals.  Last year, our team made it to the state tournament so naturally I was really looking forward to this season, my senior year.  “Unfortunately, spring sports were interrupted due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.      

“I was crushed the day Coaches Ken and Mike gave us the news we would no longer be able to practice and most likely not even play.  I thought about all the work, as a team, we had put in over the winter months in preparation for this season.  I spent more time this winter than ever before throwing pitch after pitch trying to be at my best for senior year. 

“Thanks Jake LaLonde for those Sunday workouts.  

I was counting down the days until our opening game and am devastated I won’t get to play another game on that dirt with some of the people I love the most.  On or off the field, those girls mean the world to me.  They are like my second family.  Nothing can take away the memories I made with each and every single one of them.  I will forever be thankful for all the sisters I gained playing ball.  Equally as important as the sport itself, I will miss the bus rides to and from games, time spent in the dugout huddled up closely with teammates trying to stay warm, and especially our trips to the beach. 

“I’d much rather be running foul pole to foul pole all practice long than not getting to play at all.  To all you future players, work hard and give your all EVERY SINGLE DAY because you never know when something unexpected like COVID might happen and you’ve already thrown your last pitch or made your last play.  Thanks to each and every player and all the coaches.  

“Indy PROUD.  Class of 2020.”