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The Final Whistleblow

A Senior’s Farewell to High School Athletics
Madison Puckett
Senior Zilynn Watt spent her high school career being a 5 sport athlete.

What if you spent years of time in and dedicated to the sports you love? What happens if unforeseen events make you give them up when you are in the finishing stretch?

Senior Zilynn Watt has participated in five separate sports during her time at HHS: Softball and Cross Country for four years, Track for one year, and soccer for two years.

Every dedicated athlete had to start somewhere.  According to Watt, most of her dedication has been spent in her 11 years as a wrestler.  Her start in sports began growing up and watching her uncle wrestle.

“I wanted to give it a try for myself and fell in love with wrestling,” Watt said. “As time went on, sports just have been something I’ve loved!”

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Unfortunately, Watt’s future in sports will be coming to an end a bit early.  She is suffering from an injury to her hip that has taken years of X-rays and physical therapy to diagnose, and she will not be able to play soccer this spring.

“In freshman year my hip started hurting,” Watt said.  “I realized I could pop it in and out of place, [and it] was painful to do.”

Watt finally got a referral to a specialist.  “He told me on January 2nd that it was going to be the end of my sports, and in the future, I’ll need surgery.”

Despite the injury, Watt was committed to finishing her senior wrestling season. However, because she did not advance to the State competition, her time in high school sports came to an end at the end of the winter season.

As a result of her injury, Watt has to reconsider her postsecondary plans and what they will look like, having to accept that sports will no longer be a part of it.

“It messed up a great opportunity of a $26,000 presidential scholarship at Drake University in Iowa,” Watt said,  “I was hoping to go wrestle out there because Iowa is a big state for wrestling.”

As Watt reflected on her years in wrestling, she looked back on some of her favorite memories and what made her fall in love with the sport.

“Honestly, I just really enjoy watching everyone wrestle,” Watt said.  “I really enjoyed Chloe Bradshaw placing at Districts in 2023, and I got to enjoy the moments with her and travel to state!”

Watt took her time in wrestling beyond the mats as she was able to incorporate what she learned during her time as an athlete into her personal growth.

“Playing sports teaches you to be a better person,” Watt said,  “You gain so many different qualities from it, such as teamwork, communication, self-discipline, leadership, confidence, commitment, and mental toughness.”

One thing that has helped her be a successful athlete throughout the years was the great support from all of her coaches, especially her high school wrestling coach, Mr. Ryan Keith.

“Honestly, I don’t have a favorite coach,” Watt said, “I liked every coach I’ve had! But, I do feel [Coach Keith] has made the most impact on my wrestling and life!”

Keith has seen Watt grow as an athlete since her freshman year, and he is very impressed with how fast she became one of the most promising members.

“She has been a leader on the team since the beginning and has been a captain since her sophomore year,” Keith said. “With these traits, she has been like another coach, helping others stay motivated and learn from her experience.”

Keith also has great confidence in her ability to compete well in the competition. “We are never out of a match when Zilynn is competing,” he said.

If there is one positive thing that came from Watt’s injury, it would be the determination and dedication she was able to demonstrate through overcoming her obstacles, which is something that sets her apart.

“As far as her injuries go, true competitors push through and compete,” Keith said, “Zilynn is a true competitor. She pushes herself. I know she has been physically limited at times, but she will still push herself as much as she can. That will be one thing that is missed the most about her as a wrestler.”

Her father, Cody Watt, has witnessed her become the athlete she is now and is proud of how much she has accomplished, despite the circumstances she was born into.

“It has been incredible to watch her grow over the years in everything she does,” he said, “Her dedication and focus is next to none. She truly makes us proud parents.”

One of his favorite memories of his daughter was when she was able to overcome the stereotype that female wrestlers are not as good as their counterparts.

“In one of her first matches, a boy (her opponent) was talking about how good of a wrestler he was and that a girl couldn’t beat him,” Watt said, “Well, let’s just say he was crying while she was on the podium holding her medal.”

Her father had the opportunity to learn and grow right along with his daughter. As a young father, she taught him about dedication which leaves him confident in her accomplishing anything she sets her mind to.

“When I was younger I always thought it was corny when someone would say ‘You can do anything you put your mind to’,’” he said.  “Watching her changed my perspective on that. I don’t think I can really give her advice on anything at the moment. I was super young when she was born, so we kind of grew together in a sense. You just share a special bond with a child who literally went through the trenches with you. I just know that whatever adventures she goes on she will do amazing and will help others along the way.”

As Watt wraps up her athletic career, she encourages any underclassmen to try hard and always be confident in their abilities.

“My advice is go out there have fun and try your hardest,” she said, “At the end of the day, you only know if you truly gave it your all!”

This story was originally published on The Growler on February 15, 2024.