Our daughter Teeghan is a high school senior. She’s our one-and-only and college-bound, so my emotional center meets nostalgia more than ever these days.
This will go down as one our greatest memories: Since her sophomore year in 2012, Teeghan has been honored with an invitation from the N.C. High School Athletic Association to sing the national anthem during opening ceremonies of several state championship games.
Teeghan, a student at Enloe High School in Raleigh, has accepted each invitation, singing at N.C. State University’s Reynolds Coliseum, Dail Soccer Field, Carter-Finley Stadium, and at my UNC-Chapel Hill alma mater’s Dean Dome for volleyball, soccer, football and basketball.
With several games per state championship season, Teeghan isn’t alone. And a student color guard from a local high school’s Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps joins the singers.
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Until you’ve seen area high school students handle with poise, discipline, talent and enthusiasm the preliminary activities and volunteer posts of a state athletic championship, all followed by student athletes, bands and cheerleaders, well, you miss something beautiful.
“We believe high school athletics is an opportunity to teach many, many lessons, not just how to jump, how to run, how to shoot, how to hit and how to dive,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said. “We’re about trying to teach some lifelong lessons that will help young people become productive citizens when they graduate from our program and from high school.”
Since many student athletes won’t play organized sports after high school, Tucker said, this is a prime time to nurture core values of honesty, integrity and respect.
“Those same values come out in the students who are invited to sing the national anthem and present the colors,” she added. “They have gifts and talents we believe are just as important as putting on the uniform and playing in the game.
“We want to make sure we’re projecting that.”
The national anthem is one of Teeghan’s favorites. Her rendition also opened a Durham Bulls game in 2012 and season openers for the Raleigh Police Department’s youth baseball league.
Enloe is part of her village, too, allowing her to sing before most home volleyball games – wearing her own Lady Eagles jersey as varsity player.
In fact, Teeghan was “discovered” by former NCHSAA assistant commissioner Carolyn Shannonhouse when she first heard her sing at a conference volleyball tournament at Wakefield High School.
“I was always scouting for good talent with a bottom line to select our young people to show the good things they’re doing,” said Shannonhouse, who retired last year after nearly 30 years. “It’s all about tradition, as well. Instead of playing a tape I’d much rather hear a live voice, and I’d much rather it be our high school students.”
When Teeghan paired with his corps, we met U.S. Army Col. Dimitri Belmont, head of the Wake Forest High School Army JROTC.
Each year, Belmont said, he is as excited for students to showcase their focus and discipline as the students are about the VIP treatment of their NCHSAA host.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Belmont said. “They practice all week, so I’m proud of these kids because I know they’re disciplined.
“It’s for the kids, by the kids and about the kids.”
Bingo, said Teeghan.
“I have loved singing for NCHSAA,” Teeghan said when I coaxed her to reminisce. “It’s really just an amazing opportunity to sing the national anthem in front of and for my peers.
“I mean, it’s very rare for all high school students to do something so impactful,” she said. “From the moment ROTC presents, I sing and teams start to play, it’s all about high school youth in our state, and that’s important.
“The NCHSAA looks inside our community and gives us all an opportunity to share our gifts and talents.”
Yep. I’m surely sorely gonna miss this kid.