The OC Voice is a portion of the OC Report newsletter where local residents may have a platform to talk about local issues they care about. Luke Vermeer is the student body president at East Chapel Hill High School.
Of all the sports one could choose to participate in, cross country probably sounds the least appealing. Nobody watches it. The meets take hours. On top of that, it’s just really, really hard. As you can imagine, this sport was the last thing my seventh grade self wanted to be doing at 4 PM on my first day of school. And yet, there I was on a hot afternoon in late August, panting and sweating as I ran the trails behind my middle school.
My dad had insisted I sign up to run for the school. “Being on a team is one of the most valuable experiences you can have,” he’d tell me. Growing up he’d done it all: basketball, football, even a little baseball. As I ran though, wishing I was anywhere else, I just didn’t see what could be so great about sports.
Now, having finished my eighth year of running competitively, a lot has changed. To be clear, I’ve never been a great runner. But I’ve found that value in sports my dad always told me about. Those dusty trails behind Smith Middle School were where I made some of my closest friends. Those four-hour Saturday meets hold some of my best high school memories. Sports have been invaluable to my life.
But this year, serving as President of my school’s student government, I got a whole new perspective. I saw the impact sports can have on others, even on people that have never once played them.
For as long as I’ve been there, our school has had what some like to call a “morale problem.” Maybe it’s the high pressure around academics, maybe it’s the social atmosphere. But for some reason, we just don’t have that classic “school spirit.” It was hard all year getting people to come to events student government put on. This past week though, I had the pleasure of watching sports work their magic once again.
For the first time in years, our women’s soccer team made it all the way to the state championship. The game was scheduled for a Saturday night in Raleigh, and after numerous delays, didn’t start until well after 9:30 p.m.
As I walked into that stadium, my eyes scanned back and forth for someone I knew, hoping that somebody from the school had made the trek out to NC State for the game. I looked over section after section, seeing no one, fearing that our incredible soccer team would have to play their state championship game without a student section. And then I saw it: a group of East Chapel Hill High students, 200 strong, ready for the game. My heart flew.
As our team jumped out to a 2-0 lead and held off their opponent well into the early hours of the next morning, I stood there cheering them on with the rest of my class, silently in awe of sports doing what no Instagram post or promise of free food could do all year: bring the school together.
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