Spring sports provide a dilemma that no other season can because of graduation. Depending upon how far an individual athlete or team goes in the tournament season, a conflict could arise for one of the biggest events on a school's calendar.
For the most part, schools manage to prepare for any eventuality, allowing most athletes to walk their graduation with the classmates to share in the emotional moment, but sometimes, no matter how hard they try, it just can't be helped. An athlete or more won't walk with his or her classmates because of a game, meet or match.
John F. Kennedy boys tennis player Jad Abdul-Aal became one of the few players to experience this problem last weekend.
Not that it was much of a problem in his eyes, however. The Kennedy senior took advantage of being at the Ohio State Varsity Tennis Courts in Columbus last Saturday, conducting his individual graduation ceremony at 8:15 a.m. - right before the coaches' meeting before the day's semifinal, final and consolation matches.
In fact, Abdul-Aal graduated 3 hours, 45 minutes before his classmates at Kennedy High School in Warren.
"As much as I would have loved to be with my classmates - I love each and every one of them - an experience like this, you can't really pass up," Abdul-Aal said. "It felt amazing. I got to walk across the court and grab my diploma from my coach."
Abdul-Aal's graduation had very little of the extra-curriculars that make many ceremonies drag on for longer than is necessary and instead of receiving his diploma from an administrator of the school, his coach, Joe Marino, handed it to him.
OK, it wasn't his real diploma - the family managed to borrow the diploma from another player who also graduated before play started. Although Abdul-Aal said that the school anticipated him making it to the second day of the state tournament and overnighted his diploma to his hotel, it didn't arrive in time. (It did happen to make it to the varsity courts early in the day, though).
The Kennedy contingent in Columbus didn't let that get to them and managed to have fun with it.
"I told him, 'Now, with the power not invested in me by the state of Ohio, I unduly graduate you with honors even though this probably doesn't count,' " Marino said. "I've always wanted to do it on the court.We had a whopping 5 minutes to get it done."
It started a solid day for Abdul-Aal on the court. Although he lost both matches to finish fourth in the state, the senior made it the farthest a Kennedy boys tennis player made it in the individual tournament since 1978. He also pushed the eventual runner-up, Cincinnati Country Day School's Patrick Wildman, to three sets and also forced Cincinnati Seven Hills' John Larkin to a third set despite staving off multiple match points in both matches.
As for Marino, he said he may have found a new career path.
"I think that now I'm retired, I'm going to go into graduating people," Marino said. "Let me know if there's an opening or something. That's going to be my job - the Graduator."
Thus ends the story of how Jad Abdul-Aal graduated before everybody else in the Kennedy Class of 2013.