As the spring season winds down and your anticipation of graduation increases, I want to take a moment to thank the entire MHS Class of 2021.

You wouldn’t know it, but on Friday, August 31, 2018 I covered my first Monroe event – only my second game ever. I had no idea what I was doing. The football team faced Ross under the lights in a game that eventually was postponed and completed on Saturday morning. That was my first time on Monroe Hornets Stadium turf and a night that projected me to where I am today in my photography journey.

You were sophomores that season. We hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet. You didn’t know who I was or what the ‘6S brand’ stood for. Many of you were competing at the JV level and some were finding their way into a varsity rotation. But I immediately felt a connection with a community that my family would soon join just a couple short months later.

I would go on to cover a handful of games in the winter, before our second child was born, sidelining me from spring sports in 2019.

The following year, your junior season, I made a commitment to the Monroe student-athletes to focus my efforts in providing the best possible coverage I could for our community. I upgraded my camera, bought fancier lenses and made it out to dozens of events.

I was there…

When Ben Griffis “shushed” the Oakwood crowd following a goal.

For Homecoming as you took the field in front of hundreds of your friends, decked out in gold vs Valley View.

When girls soccer defeated Eaton to complete a perfect 16-0 regular season, and for Jade Gallagher’s golden goal to beat Tippecanoe reaching a regional final for the first time in school history.

When the boys basketball team took down Oakwood in front of a packed out home crowd, to the sound of the best pep band in the land.

When the cheer competition team earned a bid to state.

When Caleb and Sam racked up wins on the mat.

And then.. in a blink of an eye, the world stopped. The most unlikely of events rocked us to the core. We were forced inside, unable to compete or see each other. We didn’t know what was going on and we certainly didn’t know what the future held for your senior season.

I think back to the spring of 2020 and my heart sinks for those who lost their season. It was going to be another SWBL title for softball, a year of growth and improvement for all of our athletes – but unfortunately, it was not meant to be.

So what did you do? You went to work. You found ways to get better. You improved in ways that no student-athletes have been forced to before you.

And you came back stronger than ever.

The girls soccer team improved on their previous season, as regional champs for the first time in school history (in a win over Oakwood, I must add).

The football team won it’s first playoff game in over a decade.

Jackson Baker qualified for Division I state in golf.

Boys soccer reached another District Final match.

Caleb Thomas became the all time winningest wrestler in school history and earned a trip to state.

The Cheer Completion team improved and finished fourth at the OASSA Championships.

Boys Swimming set school records.

Both girls and boys basketball had post-season wins.

Countless SWBL, district and even national accolades were earned.

And we got our spring season!

It was awesome to be there for baseball, softball, track and field, boys tennis and even an inaugural season of club lacrosse. It was my first time covering a spring sport and I was so thrilled to be there for you guys!

So many memories that I have been blessed to be a small part of, many of which will last me a lifetime.

The reality through all of this, is that even though I was there for you, you were there for me. You smiled and welcomed me into your programs. I have been embraced by your families, coaches and our athletic department. I have been so fortunate to be able to watch you compete the past few seasons and I can’t thank you enough for allowing me to be there for you.

This class is special. Not only for your exceptional play on the field, but more so for your excellence off the field. You have endured and preserved through so many challenges – and you did it together!

From the very bottom of my heart, thank you for being there for me and my family, and allowing me the privilege of documenting your journey. I cannot express how much I have enjoyed this time with you. I know that you all will go off and do great things.

Keep striving for success and always remember…

Once a Hornet, Always a Hornet. 🐝

Your friend,
A.J.
#1HAH #HornetCountry

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