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Thanks seniors; wishing you well

How I See It, By Joe McHaney
This senior class is special to me, mainly, because I started with the Madras Pioneer three weeks prior to this class beginning high school.
   Over the past four years, I've had an opportunity to enjoy these kids, while they've matured into young adults. Although, that might be debatable based on some of the Facebook posts I've seen by members of the senior class.
   Despite their amusing antics on the world's largest social website, this group of seniors from Culver and Madras high schools have accomplished so much in their four-year tenure with their respective schools. I think of the group of CHS seniors that won four consecutive Class 2A state championship wrestling team titles, many of whom also won individual state championships, including Josue Gonzalez - one of the finest individuals I've ever had the chance to meet.
   Now, after four years, I get the privilege to call Gonzalez a friend. He is one of many fine student-athletes that I've had numerous encounters with over the past four years. Some of those were happy times, like the interview I had with Gonzalez after he won consecutive 2A individual state championships. Some were tough times, like the tear-flooded interview with him after he lost the 132-pound finale that would have handed him his third consecutive title. Despite that, he always acted in a professional way with the local sports editor. He was humble with wins and gracious in defeats.
   In Madras, a kid by the name of Erik Quintana gives me a fist-bump and asks how my daughter is doing every time I see him. Quintana always stops me and we strike up conversation. I've watched this young man grow from a scrawny young freshman to a sculpted senior that will likely play college football next season. I'm rooting for this kid to succeed.
   Gonzalez and Quintana are just two prime examples of seniors that I've become close to over the past four years. I don't have enough room to go over every example of how classy this group from both schools have acted, or describe the many memories they have given me, but I thought I'd share my top memories from this group of seniors that I'll always remember.
   10. Culver's Samantha Donnelly ripped a game-winning home run against Kennedy her sophomore year. It was her first high school home run, and I'll never forget that smile as she rounded second base. She was awestruck, and this young lady, who is one of my all-time favorite CHS athletes, received a large celebration at home plate. It was amazing to watch.
   9. Bobby Ahern's performance against La Salle his senior year at home was spectacular for MHS. With a large entourage of family members in attendance, Ahern scored 18 of his game-high 24 points in the first half and led the Buffs to a share of the Tri-Valley Conference title with the win. His reactions on the court electrified the White Buffalo Dome, and the sharp-shooting Ahern was the man that night!
   8. Madras' Andrew McConnell had his shining moment this year in baseball. The senior first baseman, who struck out in his previous three plate appearances, ripped a walk-off single against visiting Yamhill-Carlton during a Class 4A play-in game. What a remarkable turn of events in a baseball game that will be long remembered in this community.
   7. Madras senior hoop star Abby Scott scored a school record 40 points against Estacada. She told me during a post-game interview that she was going to break the scoring record just two days prior. Scott did just that, and didn't break a sweat in doing so.
   6. I didn't get to see it, but I listened to it on the radio. MHS senior catcher Jordan Brown had 16 blocks behind the plate, and saved a run in the bottom of the seventh frame with a spectacular defensive play with pitcher Kyle Palmer at Baker City during the first round of the Class 4A baseball playoffs. I've always rooted for Brown, and I was screaming at the radio for this kid to succeed. He did in a big way that day!
   5. Volleyball means everything to Culver's Kelsie Stafford, Cheyenne Dobkins and Donnelly. The three seniors helped CHS win the Tri-River League last fall and it wasn't so much the accomplishment, but how the community was swept into the success of the program. The team had a large fan base, including a football team that showed up at home matches to cheer, and cheer loudly. Those home matches were what small-town athletics are all about, and I know those three seniors will always remember their final volleyball year in orange and black. It will stick with me forever.
   4. I'll never forget the roar that was made when Culver's Jesus Retano defeated Jon Thurber of Reedsport his junior year in overtime during the 152-pound final match at the Culver Wrestling Invitational. It was a remarkable scene to see one kid nearly shake the gym off its foundation. CHS head coach J.D. Alley followed with the quote of the year, "You could have probably heard the crowd at the local bars Saturday night." What a scene that was!
   3. I watched Madras High's Travis Williams be defeated for the Class 4A 215-pound individual state wrestling championship his junior year. It was tough to watch, but it was spectacular to see this man-child win the Class 4A 220-pound title his senior year. He wanted it so badly, and his reaction and emotions after his state championship victory were evidence of that. Williams will go down as arguably the school's best wrestler. Willams was beaming with pride for weeks after he won, that was priceless!
   2. Ryan Fine never won a state championship or league title in any sport, but this MHS senior who played tennis is not only a friend of mine, he is irreplaceable to the school. He immersed himself at MHS and who could forget his entrance during homecoming on a lawn mower, or his help in creating the Spandex Spectators for volleyball games. Fine was named Homecoming king and justifiably so. MHS should erect a bronze statue of Fine for all to remember this kid, and why they're at it make one of Williams, too!!!
   1. I'll never forget when Culver's Mitch Nelson congratulated teammate David Badillo after the 2010 Class 2A/1A 125-pound state championship wrestling match. Badillo edged Nelson, his best friend, for the state title and the two sophomores shared a grand gesture on the mat in front of thousands of onlookers. Nelson was seeking back-to-back individual state championships to match his older brother, but even though he lost, he made sure to recognize Badillo. As much as I remember that moment, I'm sure those two do as well. Due to injuries, neither made it to a championship final match again. I've been a high school reporter for 10 years now; never have I seen something so classy in high school sports.
   Those are some of my top memories that I hope CHS and MHS graduates will talk about this weekend during graduation parties. Use this weekend to reflect and be proud of your time at CHS and MHS. I hope all of you make wise choices this weekend as well, because as much as we've enjoyed reading about you in the Madras Pioneer, we don't want to read about you in the police logs.
   Congratulations to all graduates; I wish you all the best of luck!