What a conundrum Erin Knabe was facing when Thursday’s heavy rains drenched Lombardi Field and the thunder and lightning chased track fans into nearby Carl Sandburg Middle School.
The NJSIAA Meet of Champions, it had just been announced, was getting postponed from Thursday to Friday. That spelled trouble for Knabe, the senior class president at Voorhees who was supposed to address her classmates at graduation ceremonies that same day.
Knabe was also the third seed in the pole vault competition with a season-best 12-0, behind Southern Regional’s Chelsea Vaughan and Hillsborough’s Marlena Sabatino, both at 12-6.
Voorhees coach Justina Cassavell, hoping Knabe could deliver her address and then hustle down to Old Bridge, explained Knabe’s plight to meet director and NJSIAA assistant director Don Danser, who said that Knabe would not be permitted to compete if she arrived late, regardless of the circumstances.
So Knabe was faced with a brutal decision: Graduation or the M of C?
It was a situation many M of C athletes were facing. If graduation was not the issue, then prom was. Both are rites of passage. The decision shouldn’t be.
Others would simply change their strategy, like Neptune’s Ajee’ Wilson, whose coach told me she was going after a huge time (read 2:01 or better) in the 800 on Thursday, but because of the delay with the M of C, Wilson was running only to win because she had a big open 800 to run at the adidas Grand Prix meet on Saturday in NYC.
Back to Knabe, who said Thursday she knew she was in for a tough night with the
first major decision of her lifetime.
‘`I was talking with my parents who were helping me out with it,” Knabe said. “I was really stressing out. It just seemed unfair: Why do I have to make this decision? I was upset, and crying a little bit.”
Knabe’s biggest fear was choosing the track meet over graduation, then having the meet postponed again (a weather forecast from Thursday was predicted for Friday) and thus missing graduation for nothing.
Knabe said she was leaning toward the M of C when she learned about a groundswell of support from her peers and teammates who learned of her predicament.
“The girls on the track team sent out Facebook messages and text messages trying to get people to come. I would say they had 50 people ready to come.”
But then, at 9:30 a.m. Friday, Knabe learned the M of C was postponed yet again due to a similar weather pattern, and moved to Monday.
Her grey skies had been lifted — literally.
“I was so happy when I found out at 9:30, and my mom was even happier,” Knabe said.
Knabe delivered her speech as senior class president without worrying what would have been at the M of C.
“I worked so hard for both of these things,” she said. “I worked four years for graduation, and I earned the right to make that speech, and I worked four years to earn my position at Meet of Champs. The text message thing and Facebook thing, I was touched about how strong our community was. I actually added it to the end of my speech.”
“Now I’m ready. I’m determined. I’m not going to stress out too much. Even if I don’t win, I don’t care, I just want to see what I can do.”
By Rich Bevensee/For The Star-Ledger