By TOM WILLIAMS
We will never forget Ocean City High School’s Class of 2021.
It was a class loaded with versatile athletes, many of whom played multiple sports. They combined their talents to win many of the championships that were available to them. But, most of all, they handled the challenges of 2020-21 with class and determination.
This was not, as you surely know, a typical school year. These student-athletes wore masks, attended some academic classes online and frequently changed their clothes after a game on the sidelines or the bus.
You can be sure they had their moments of frustration (for example, the football season ended at halftime) but they did not let it interfere with their performance.
You know their names – Joe, Gannon, Faith, the two Jakes, Alexa, Tara, Brady, Alex, Mike, Brad, Marlee, Matt, Will, Stephanie, Elijah, Morgan, David, Nya, Steve, Tyler, Vanessa, Dolan, Drew, Erin, Ben, Alexis, James, Hailey, Jack, Brendan – there are so many of them.
The saddest part of the story is that, with the exception of spring teams, we’ll never really know what these athletes could have accomplished.
But we might have an idea.
It was frustrating that football and basketball were pretty much dismissed this year. There were no championships in football and only titles from Jerry-rigged divisions in basketball.
Still, we got an idea about what might have happened in football and basketball. The OCHS football team defeated St. Joseph for the first time since 1976. And the boys basketball team defeated Wildwood Catholic and Atlantic City back-to-back for the first time since Dr. Naismith inflated the first ball.
This column is about the exceptional lineup of athletes in Ocean City’s senior class and how their talents prevailed despite the worst health crisis in the country in over 100 years. But that same senior class is filled with musicians, singers, actors, dancers, photographers and members of the school’s video crew who had the same challenges through the pandemic and also found a way to make things work.
The challenges faced by these student-athletes were awful. They had two shortened seasons and one completely cancelled in their final year and a half. And it should be mentioned that if we want to make sure these limitations never happen again, that the growing Delta variant of the virus doesn’t take opportunities away from future student-athletes, we need to all get vaccinated and to wear a mask when we are grouped with people who might not be vaccinated.
Ocean City High School wasn’t the only school that faced all these challenges and the others should be commended as well. But this was an exceptional athletic class at OCHS.
We will never forget the Class of 2021 because of the talented athletes among them. We will never forget what the baseball and boys lacrosse teams accomplished with their opportunities.
Most of all, though, we will never forget how these teenagers were dealt a terrible hand but re-focused and made the best of it.
It was impressive and inspiring to watch.