NEW GLARUS — With the spring sports season indefinitely paused due to COVID-19, Wisconsin Sports Network’s Travis Wilson called on Twitter and Facebook for schools from around the state to join an electronically viral trend that has spread across the country faster than the illness.
“Be The Light” is a social media movement that asks schools and sports complexes to turn on the lights at local fields and high schools to honor the current high school seniors that are missing out on their final prep sports season. Families and fans were encouraged to turn on lights at their homes to also honor the student athletes.
Albany, Argyle, Black Hawk, Brodhead, Darlington, New Glarus and Pecatonica joined in, as did several other area schools in southwestern Wisconsin, like Belleville, Belmont, Benton, Cuba City, Dodgeville, Evansville, Mineral Point and Parkview.
New Glarus High School Principal Jeff Eichelkraut said that for years, a lot of these students have prepared and practiced to compete during their senior year, only to have it postponed this spring.
“Turning on the lights, if even for just a half an hour, is a sign of respect and gratitude to all students involved in all extracurricular activities. It is difficult, as we miss our students during this time,” Eichelkraut said.
Turning on the lights, if even for just a half an hour, is a sign of respect and gratitude to all students involved in all extracurricular activities. It is difficult, as we miss our students during this time.Jeff Eichelkraut, New Glarus High School Principal
Monroe did not partake in the lighting of the fields, instead asking social media to share their favorite memories with pictures of student athletes on Facebook and Twitter.
“The Badger Conference has decided not to participate as we feel this creates a situation that encourages students and families to leave their homes and drive or walk by the stadium,” Monroe Athletic Director Jeff Newcomer said in an official statement. “The School District of Monroe asks all Cheesemaker fans to stay home, be safe and to follow the Safer At Home guidelines set in place by the governor.”
Badger Conference schools Oregon, Reedsburg and Waunakee broke with the league and held lightings.
Wilson reported on Twitter that more than 200 Wisconsin schools participated in some form. Another lighting is planned for April 17.
In New Glarus, a steady stream of cars drove by the elementary school to see the lights on at the football field and the baseball field at Veterans Memorial Park across the street. Pedestrians were scarce, and physical distancing guidelines of staying more than 6 feet apart was unnecessary due to the lack of people walking.
The lights on the two fields brightened up the entire city for northbound cars cresting the hill at New Glarus Woods State Park just south of town on Wisconsin 69.
In Brodhead, a parade of cars drove by Gary Larsen Field on the high school campus.
The softball field along the Sugar River was bright, showing solidarity with the Juda-Albany softball team, as well as representing track and field athletes and baseball players from the surrounding communities.
Pecatonica High School turned on the lights at the McKellar Park baseball field, which is currently under renovation trying to prepare to host a WIAA Division 4 baseball sectional, should the currently postponed season start back up before graduation in late May. Nearby in Argyle, the lights were on at the Legion Community Park.
Black Hawk’s football field lights were on as well.
“At first, when I saw this initiative, I thought it was silly,” Black Hawk principal Cory Milz said in Facebook and Twitter posts April 9. “People are going through some really tough situations right now, and missing out on high school sports is pretty small in the big scheme of things. But then I thought about being young, and how important it is to hold onto your youth for as long as you can; for those awesome memories of days gone by can carry people through some awfully tough times.”
At first, when I saw this initiative, I thought it was silly.People are going through some really tough situations right now, and missing out on high school sports is pretty small in the big scheme of things. But then I thought about being young, and how important it is to hold onto your youth for as long as you can; for those awesome memories of days gone by can carry people through some awfully tough times.
Black Hawk understands firsthand the effects of losing out on potential memories. The girls basketball team was hours away from defending its WIAA Division 5 state title when the tournament was canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“It is a shame that our 2020 seniors have lost some of those memories,” Milz said in the post, announcing that the school would be participating in the lighting event. He said it was to “let our seniors know that we are thinking about them during what would have been their last hurrah as high schoolers. They have given our communities a lot of wonderful experiences and we are grateful for their efforts.”
The WIAA gave an update on the spring sports season April 10 as well, announcing that with the University of Wisconsin canceling all campus events through June 30, state championship sites for softball, golf and tennis would have to be moved.
The WIAA Board of Control will meet April 21 in a video conference and “will discuss options for the remainder of the spring sports seasons and summertime contact,” Todd Clark said in the press release. “The WIAA will continue to be in alliance with the directives issued by Governor Tony Evers in relation to the closure or reopening of schools. Interscholastic activities are extensions of the classroom and serve as a partner in the total education process. They do not operate independently from the school.”