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Big days for student-athletes

It’s a busy time of the sports year. Of course there was just the most-watched Super Bowl ever. There’s the Olympics starting in a few days and March Madness basically right after that.

Right here in Suffolk, it’s one of the busiest periods of the high school athletic calendar, too. There are plenty of games and tournaments, but in the last few days, King’s Fork, Lakeland, Nansemond River and Nansemond-Suffolk have been able to honor student-athletes accepting full scholarship offers from colleges and universities.

At King’s Fork on Friday afternoon, as Bulldog football standouts Dominique Patterson (Virginia Tech) and Derek Wright (Towson) were recognized for making their college choices official, the normal signing ceremony evolved into about a dozen testimonials from coaches, parents, family, friends and teachers.

All of it was heartfelt. All of it was valuable and showed how proud everyone was of Patterson and Wright. Some of it was a little embarrassing to Patterson and Wright.

Most ceremonies at high schools don’t become detailed biographies about the kid who has earned a chance to play a sport at a high collegiate level and earned the ability to have his or her education paid for, fully or partially.

The one at King’s Fork, in fact, was the first one like that I’ve seen in four years of getting to as many similar events in Suffolk as I can. In every one, though, the emotion and pride from family, coaches, friends — and obviously the new signee — make it easy to appreciate what the ceremony is all about.

During the period from Thursday to Tuesday, King’s Fork, Nansemond River (Stephanie Tarafas, field hockey, James Madison), Lakeland (Craig Woodus, football, Delaware St; Cedric Johnson, football, Hampton; Morgan McCaw, field hockey, Longwood) and Nansemond-Suffolk (Baron Goodman, football, William and Mary) have all had athletes officially accepting Division I scholarships. All that put together makes each story even better to cover.

I don’t have stats from other cities or schools, so this isn’t meant to be any sort of comparison. To me though, it seems as though it’s a remarkable number for a city with four high schools, and now five as First Baptist has its first-ever senior class this school year. Judging by my lists for the spring, fall and winter collegiate sports seasons, there are 104 Warriors, Cavaliers, Bulldogs or Saints playing collegiate sports.

So while each high school athlete who gets the opportunity to be a college athlete has a very unique path getting there, it’s clear to say in Suffolk it’s not really rare.