The original, posted the day after I got a Twitter DM that made me weep real, actual tears.
So here’s what you need to know about this photo.
If I have my calendar right, this photo was taken on January 18 of last year. It was the last time I read a match at Virginia High School, VHS’ last tournament as members of Conference 40 (although the Clinch Mountain Conference teams will likely reunite with the next VHSL reorganization). It was the first time I’d read VHSL matches since Virginia Intermont closed. I had exactly zero sense about what to expect, except that Central had been strong in 2013-2014, and they’d been absolutely dominant in the conference that season. I knew I’d see some good friends again (always know Virginia will want to see me, always will have love for friends at Gate City and John Battle), but Central had been new to the conference, and I didn’t know them that well, and…
…and I’m very certain all my nervousness and emotions about the day evaporated when Jack shouted to his teammates “YOU GUYS! CHUCK’S HERE!”
And I got MOBBED by these guys who I barely knew.
I have said it before, and I will surely say it until I die. I’ve read a lot of quizbowl, and I have had a lot of fun in this game, and I’ve seen guys from high school to graduate school and at all points in between. But the thing in my life I never expected, and that I will always savor, is the fact that a few small high schools in Southwest Virginia took to me so quickly, and called me their own, and that they have cheered for me and embraced me as completely as I have them – and that embrace continues, even as I’ve landed in middle Tennessee.
Even as I go to read Tennessee Science Bowl at Pellissippi State yesterday, and Central High School of Wise, Virginia knocks off, by the most conservative standard, a top-40 team in the NATION, the two-time defending state 2A champion, and what’s consistently one of the top three teams in the state of Virginia across all classifications.
Central will take their 2A state championship and start work on their national reputation at the PACE National Scholastic Championship in Chicago on June 4 and 5, where they will compete as a platinum qualifier – the highest level of qualification.
And these guys will be giving it their very best go.
Luke – that chill guy in the back – tweeted that his freshman year, his team went 0-14 in their conference. I’d never have believed it. They’ve all been so good for as long as I’ve known them. And they’ve progressively gotten better. And they got their payoff yesterday.
To Jack Huguenin, Luke Basham, Jared Lentchner, Ali Qureshi, and the rest of the Central crew: even as I try, there are no words to my pride, in all of you. Thanks for winning this for the Clinch Mountain Conference, and for showing your state what Southwest Virginia can do.