Senior members of the Hickman High School girls’ soccer team were all smiles Thursday — and not just because they will compete in the state finals this weekend.
The team’s eight seniors received their diplomas two days early at a special ceremony held in Hickman’s auditorium.
Thursday also marked the final day of school throughout the Columbia Public School District.
Superintendent Phyllis Chase and Hickman principal Wanda Brown participated in the event along with two student speakers. The graduates’ families and friends — many of whom knew each other well from years on the soccer sidelines — cheered as if it were a game rather than a graduation.
Preparations for the ceremony were made this week, immediately after the Kewpies learned they would have to miss their graduation Saturday in order to compete in the finals, said Renee Miedema, mother of senior Rachel Miedema.
“The Hickman administration and school board just did way more than we thought they would or could do, and it was greatly appreciated,” Renee said.
Senior Jodi Bolerjack said she’s not upset that she didn’t graduate with the rest of the class of 2004 — the trade-off is worth it.
“I’d rather go to state for soccer than graduate with everyone else,” said Bolerjack, who graduated with her twin, Amy. “You just can’t end on a better note than that.”
Coach Sandy Paulsen, who is wrapping up her last season with the team after 16 years, was recognized at the ceremony and received a standing ovation from the administration, graduates and spectators.
After the ceremony, Paulsen credited the eight seniors with pulling the team together. All have played for Hickman for three years.
“As a coach, you get to know them so well as people,” she said. “This group of kids are a great group of young ladies.”
Rachel Miedema, one of the team captains, said she is glad the team is going to state this year because it’s Paulsen’s last year. “It is just as special for her as it is for us.”
Senior Ashley Turner, the other captain, said the reality of this week’s huge events hasn’t set in yet. “Even though we don’t get to go to a regular graduation, going to state makes up for it,” Turner said.
The other seniors who graduated Thursday were Shelly Forbis, Molly O’Connell, Lindsay Oetker and Jessica Perry.