Centralia High School tennis players and parents gathered, at a safe distance, at the sports complex tennis courts on June 11 to honor a group of five seniors who had their final season cut short due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Carissa Kaut, Gracie Wiley, Lillian Johnson, Shannon Johnson and Brynna Rooklidge were the seniors recognized. Centralia tennis coach Deb Keahey called the seniors great role models for the underclassmen.

“Carissa has a great competitive spirit and work ethic,” Keahey said. “Shannon has great perseverance and served as co-captain. Brynna has tremendous drive and served as co-captain. Gracie has an unshakable spirit while always kind. Lillian has great positive energy and is always ready to serve others. I am disappointed they didn’t get to play their senior year because we had a very strong team, but they can always say that they were undefeated their senior year.”

It was originally planned to be a drive-by celebration to congratulate the seniors and was just going to be the team, but some parents hung around and sat outside the tennis courts while the coaches recognized the seniors and the team, and the event turned into an outdoor awards banquet.

“I need to reiterate that we did abide by the 6-foot rule as much as possible,” Keahey said. “When you are passing out awards and playing tennis, it’s easy to do that.”

Kaut was a two-time state competitor, placing fifth in doubles her sophomore year and advancing to state in singles as a junior. She signed to play women’s basketball at Centralia College. The other four seniors, Lillian Johnson, Shannon Johnson, Wiley and Rooklidge were on varsity all four years of their high school career.

I am sad to see the seniors graduating because our team was really strong,” Keahey said.

The team played tennis one last time together before and after the awards banquet. The ceremony started at 6:45 p.m., where coaches passed out varsity and junior varsity certificates. The team as a whole received an Outstanding Scholastic Award for achieving a 3.5 and above GPA. After the ceremony, the team played tennis until the sun began to set at 9 p.m. Keahey said everyone enjoyed being able to play together again after losing the entire season.

“After all that’s happened during this unprecedented time, we definitely needed this time together as a team,” Keahey said. “Tennis is the perfect game to play during this time because you maintain the 6-foot distancing rule while you play. Overall, I think the day was great for everybody: physically, socially, mentally and spiritually.”

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