Run or Walk? School Track Meet, Graduation On Same Day

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CANAL FULTON, Ohio -- Northwest Local Schools will hold its 60th annual commencement ceremony Saturday, recognizing graduates of the class of 2014.

Not all of the seniors will be able to be there.

Some of the students will have to make a difficult choice between attending their graduation ceremony or competing in the district track meet for another once-in-a lifetime opportunity to compete for a state title.

The conflict has existed for years.

"It's tough. They've worked hard in track put a lot of time and effort into it and to have this controversy every year, so its kind of difficult," said Nancy Kepley, President of the Northwest Runners Club, a booster organization made up mostly of track and cross-country parents.

The graduation ceremony gets underway at 2 p.m. at the Akron Baptist Temple.

The district track meet gets underway at 12:30.

"They have to make a decision, especially if they are in one of the later events, whether or not they are going to stay and run their event and possibly move on to regionals or if they are going to forego that and go to their own graduation," said Theresa Hinkle another parent who said last year she was left having to make a choice of her own.

Hinkle said she had one son who was graduating and another who was competing in the regional track meet and wanted to support them both.

Hinkle also said there was a senior last year who had perfect attendance throughout school, from kindergarten through high school, but missed his own graduation because he was competing with his track team.

"It just always sounds like there's no way to change this, like I've never been given hope that we are working on that lets see what we can do," said Hinkle.

Northwest High School Principal Eric Bornstine said the conflict existed before he became the school principal.

Part of it is tradition, but Bornstine said in reality it is much more complicated than that.

Bornstine said state competition follows regional which follows district, so no matter what Saturday they hold the ceremony on there is likely to be a conflict.

He explained that since the school uses the church facilities, they also have to depend on when those are available. Since some parents like having graduation parties following the ceremony scheduling the ceremony later in the day to accommodate seniors on the track team would create different conflicts for other families.

"We would love every senior that's earned the right to participate in graduation ceremony to be able to participate, and if I knew all of that and had a magic ball in terms of who it was and when it was and will they compete again in regionals or districts, I think we would be better able to address those concerns. It is a concern of ours as well because we want everyone who has earned that right to be able to participate," said Bornstine.