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Clay High School seniors skip graduation for chance at softball state title

Four members of the Clay High School softball team are skipping their own high school graduation to play in a state regional final, and they'll be rewarded for it.

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. — *GREAT UPDATE: The team won the game they missed their graduation to attend. They will be moving on to the Final Four, which begins next week.

The end of the school year usually means that we're in the midst of two important seasons: graduation season and state championship season.

A group of young ladies in Clay County had a very tough decision to make, but after deciding to skip their own high school graduation in order to play in a softball regional final, their high school is rallying around them.

Over the next few weeks many images of caps, gowns and graduates will dominate social media feeds of thousands of families in our area.  

But while their classmates are getting ready to walk across a stage, four seniors on the Clay High School softball team are on a five-hour road trip west for a Regional Finals playoff game in Pensacola.  

"We've been texting back and forth the whole way," says Clay Senior 3rd Baseman Ema Martin. "All of us are super excited, we're ready to get there, and we're ready to win, we really want this really badly."

But to play in tonight's game, they have to miss their own high school graduation, which is scheduled for tonight.

"I definitely didn't think I'd be missing graduation, but I am happy that we are to continue playing the sport we love so much," says Clay Senior 1st baseman Abby Rutledge.

It was the softball field that brought these classmates together, and they say that if they have to miss graduation, they'd rather be with their sisters on the team rather than anyone else.

"It was a really easy decision for me to make," says Clay Senior Shortstop Gabby Wiseman. "I've played with all of them since I was 8 years old, they're all my best friends."

And no matter what happens in Friday night's game, these best friends are guaranteed to have at least one more time together in high school. The school is letting them walk across the stage in a special Sunday graduation.

"I'm going to bring the seniors into the gym at 7 o'clock like we would for a normal graduation," says Clay Softball Head Coach Matt Lewis. "We're going to hoot and holler through the halls like we normally would."

"I honestly think it's working out perfectly because not only do we get a chance to go to state, we also get to invite whoever we want to our own graduation on Sunday," says Clay senior catcher Sydney Davis. "The spotlight's on us a little bit."

There are actually fice seniors on the team, Kierstyn Mann chose to stay home to walk across the stage with the rest of her class.  

Lewis says that he's proud of the choice that the young lady made.

"She feels like she's letting the team down by doing graduation, but she's not," says Lewis.  "Like I texted her last night, she as an 18-year-old has taught a 52-year-old a hard lesson, that sometimes the hardest choices in life are not the easy ones, and they're not the popular one, but she made it, and she's going to stand by it."

Sunday's special graduation is also open to the public, so the community can cheer on the girls who missed their graduation ceremony.

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