A career ends – but the memories will live forever

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Back in early November, Lakeland field hockey coach Tara Worley decided to do something extra special for her longtime charge Katelyn Smither, arguably the best player of Worley’s six-year tenure at the school. Smither, a two-time Southeastern District and co-Region Player of the Year, four-time All-District, three-time All-Region and two-time All-State selection, had helped the Lady cavaliers to their four-straight district regular season and tournament title in her farewell year, and Worley felt that that deserved more than just an average send-off.

Worley called Katelyn’s father Edward, the school athletic director, and told him of her plan.

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&uot;I asked him if it had ever been done before,&uot; she said. &uot;We didn’t get into too many details, but I think he said that that was what he’d wanted out of the past five years.&uot; Before making the varsity squad her freshman year, Smither played on the school’s junior varsity team as an eighth-grader at Forest Glen Middle.

Worley and Edward decided to wait until the school’s Fall Sports Banquet on Wednesday to tell anyone about the surprise. Tragically, it was a day that Edward would never see; he passed away suddenly on Nov. 13, and volleyball coach Daniel Waller had to open the first banquet in school history without him.

&uot;We would be remiss without moving on without acknowledging Edward Smither,&uot; a shaken Waller said to the school community on Tuesday. &uot;Everyone here felt the profound loss of him.&uot; After a moment of silence, golf coach Ron Robertson was appointed Smither’s acting replacement.

&uot;I had no choice but to say yes (when asked),&uot; Robertson said. &uot;As a friend or a coach, Ed Smither was the best. I’ll do anything I can to better Lakeland. We’re a family, and if we work together, we can do great things.&uot; Augie Camacho got an award for having the lowest average (81) on the golf squad, and Nick Howell, who made All-District honors, was the Most Outstanding golfer.

In cross country, Allison Jones was named the top female runner and David Morean the best male.

&uot;They may be standing in front of you looking like characters,&uot; Waller joked about his team,&uot; but these boys had a lot of character. They were working with each other, having fun with each other, and occasionally, winning with each other.&uot; The squad took three win this year, the most in history, including their first-ever defeat of local rival Nansemond River. Jake Conrad, who came back from an injury to play the last part of the season, got the Most Valuable Player award. Buddy Wirt was named the top defensive player, while Chad Cross tops on offense. In girls action, seniors Rachel Evans, Mary Rimasse and Christina Williams got Coach’s Awards.

Cheerleading, said coach Latoya Floyd, &uot;is a very long season. It can get tedious; girls have to prepare for games on Friday nights, competitions on Saturday nights, and tests on Tuesday.&uot; The girls still managed a spot on local television: the WTKR news named them the area’s Squad of the Week during the football season. Whitney Bristow got the Most Dedicated Award, with Ashley Schleeper the Most Spirited, Cassie Szerwiski the Coach’s Award and Sara Burrus the Most Valuable Cheerer. Kristen Myers got a special award for making the All-District team.

Out on the football field, the Cavaliers lost their first six games, only to recover with defeats of King’s Fork and Norcom.

&uot;I want to thank these guys,&uot; coach Greg Rountree said. &uot;It would have been easy to give up, but they persevered, and I thank them for that. We went through a lot of ups and downs this season, but it takes a while to build a program, and we’re going to build one that (the school) can be proud of.&uot; Kelly Sims got the Most Improved award, with Michael Copeland getting the top rookie honor. D.J. Everett was the best offensive player, and Greg Henderson the most on defense.

Finally, it was Worley’s turn. She started by giving Stephanie Owen and Melissa Dunn Coach’s Awards, Kelsey Cutchins the top defensive honor, and Lindsay Kelly the Best All-Around. Then she brought Smither onstage.

&uot;Katelyn is the most decorated athlete I’ve ever coached,&uot; Worley said. &uot;She scored over 100 goals, and 89 were on varsity. She had 57 assists, and she started 78 or 79 games, except one she missed with an injury that drove her crazy! She helped win an indoor national championship, and she received a full athletic scholarship to Old Dominion University. She will truly be missed.&uot;

Then she brought out the surprise that she and Edward had planned; Smither’s jersey, mounted for a display that will be the first of its kind to hang in the school gym. Worley and Smither embraced, and the room erupted in an emotional standing ovation.

&uot;I was completely stunned,&uot; Smither said. &uot;I don’t even know how to describe it. I didn’t know what was going to happen. It was an amazing five years, and I was honored that that was how it ended.&uot;