She slipped away quietly after a long and productive life with little fanfare or mention.
She was born on Nov. 4, 1922 at the Cherry Hotel in Washington C.H. and her life came to a close on May 11, 2017 in Hillsboro.
She was 94.
She disappeared twice during her lifetime and the worst was feared. But each time she rose again, stronger than before.
She was a strong old lady, produced state champion teams and individuals, college All-Americans, professional athletes and more. But maybe her greatest accomplishment was the thousands and thousands of kids she helped prepare for life beyond high school.
Her name was the South Central Ohio League.
We had grown apart somewhat in recent years and I didn’t see her nearly as much as I once had, but she left an indelible impression on me.
When I was young I watched her from the bleachers, longing for the time when I could be part of her family. Eventually that memorable time came and passed, but still we remained close. Over the years I wrote stories about her, officiated for her, watched a sibling coach for her, saw my sons excel for her, and now I sit here writing her obituary.
Her cause of death is unknown, but foul play is suspected. The older she became, the stronger she grew. And in the end that was likely her undoing.
Because evidently, she raised two of her sons too well.
One was named Clinton-Massie. He became too successful in football. He claimed back-to-back state championships, has not lost one of mother SCOL’s games for probably 10-plus years, and some of her other siblings apparently did not like that.
Another was named Wilmington. He became too strong in basketball, if only for two or three years. But some of the other siblings evidently grew jealous of that, too, and decided to take their footballs and basketballs elsewhere to play.
What a shame, I thought.
No official has ever stepped forward and said in plain language why two or three members of the SCOL decided it was time to move on, and invited all the other members of the league, except Clinton-Massie and Wilmington, to join them. No one likely ever will.
The last official SCOL event, at least as far as athletic contests go, was the track and field championships held recently in Hillsboro. If nothing else, at least I’m glad they buried her at my alma mater.
The SCOL held its first athletic seasons during the 1923-24 school year. The first contests were three football games played on Oct. 5, 1923. On that night Wilmington beat Circleville 38-0, Chillicothe beat Hillsboro 58-0 and and Washington beat McClain 13-0.
The league disbanded from 1932 to 1936 and from 1993 to 2002.
It seems like something that lived so long and so well should have been celebrated when it was finally laid to rest. But what do I know?
In the full scheme of life, I guess it doesn’t matter all that much. High school athletes will continue to complete against each other, fans will still come out to watch them play, and life will go on.
But I sure will miss the SCOL. So if no one else will say it, let me be the one. So long old friend. You drew my tears and laughter, and nearly every emotion in between. Rest well.
Who knows, maybe one day you will rise again.
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.
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