Graduations provide reminder to be thankful for memories

Coming around the corner to see Amanda Sullivan in the dugout provided a little bit of a shock.

Camera in hand, there the cheery Platte County senior stood, apparently ready to take in the Pirates’ Class 5 District 16 championship game. My understanding of the day’s schedule made me wonder exactly why.

“What are you doing here? Don’t you have a game?” I asked.

“Well, the bus doesn’t leave until 5,” she replied with her usual smile.

With a 4:30 p.m. first pitch, Sullivan showed up to document the achievements of her classmates — even if she couldn’t stay long. The bus to Smithville left in a half hour, taking her on to play the biggest game of her Platte County career.

All schools could use a few more Amanda Sullivans.

With the Class 3 District 16 championship game looming, her graduation ceremony just days away, Sullivan showed up because she cares — both about her classmates and her school. She showed up to make sure the yearbook had a few more images to use.

Leave no job undone, even with your limited time in high school.

With five graduation ceremonies come and gone this spring, the interaction with Sullivan that day left me retrospective. Each graduating class since I came back to work in Platte City has left me with memories. I’ve grown closer to the communities I cover, a product of being there day in and day out to share in the successes and disappointments of the five high schools I cover.

I’ll miss the understated confidence of Jenna Winebrenner at Park Hill, the stoicism of Jake Kline at Park Hill South, the sheer bravado of Justin Mitchell and the diverse intellectualism of Spencer Kunz at Platte County, the apprehensiveness for interviews of Kyle Tabaka at West Platte, the unmistakable smile of Parker Rotterman at North Platte. The list could go on for longer than you care to read.

Of course, some names you remember more than others, and I hope Amanda Sullivan stays in contact while she’s off doing great things.

I didn’t see Sullivan leave the baseball field last Wednesday afternoon, but I did see her again. After Platte County finished off a 10-0 win against Staley to earn the baseball program’s first district title in more than a decade, I trekked across Highway 92 for the Pirates’ soccer game.

There I found Sullivan, excited but disappointed that I missed her left-footed shot that glanced off the crossbar in the first half.

Due to Sullivan’s passion for photography, she became almost a co-worker the past two years.

We would share camera tips, review and compare images and just talk during the down time.
Much to my shock, Sullivan donned a Royals hat and shirt for Halloween this year, coming to Platte County’s football game that weekend dressed as me. This was both funny and unexpected.

However, high school moments end up fleeting.

Sullivan, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in the preseason as a junior, clashed knees with a Kearney opponent in the second half and asked out of the game. Visibly emotional, I feared maybe she had suffered another serious injury just ahead of leaving for Missouri State on a soccer scholarship.

Looking up at the start of overtime, I saw a hobbled but determined Sullivan back in her spot at left back to finish out the game, which didn’t end up the way she hoped. Kearney scored a sudden-death winner late in the game to end Platte County’s successful seasons.

I chose Sullivan to interview after the game. One of just four seniors, she spoke well and endured my questions in a tough situation.

As we trudged off the field, I realized I wouldn’t interview Amanda Sullivan again. I have few opportunities left with the Class of 2017, and each one will be special. 

When in high school, you don’t always take the time to appreciate the dedication of someone like Amanda Sullivan. As you grow older, you recognize the importance of those people who made a difference in your life during high school.

I know I do now.

I’ve been covering sports and high schools for a decade and a half. I’ve seen youthful interview subjects grow to be doctors, nurses, lawyers, coaches and in some cases, friends. 

I look forward to seeing the Class of 2017 carve out its path. I’ll follow from afar and hope to encounter some of the faces when they return, hoping I made enough of an impact to have them say hello when they see me.

New names and personalities will take their place next year, but the subjects of my stories and photos never really go away. I always keep a piece of their memories as my own, appreciative of the relationships my job builds.  

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.