KNOXVILLE — It was different than the normal setting, but yet still fitting for Knoxville seniors who formally ended their high school careers Sunday.
The capital of sprint car racing was the center of attention for honoring the Knoxville High School Class of 2020.
For a while, it seemed COVID-19 would prevent an in-person gathering to divvy out diplomas to those who've put in the hard work to receive them. But at the Knoxville Raceway, the school gave the now graduates proper pomp and circumstance to acknowledge their achievements.
"This virus does not define the class of 2020," senior Faith Hatch said. "It is just one piece of our amazing time we all shared together."
Knoxville High School's senior class has more than 10 senior athletes who will play sports in college, and had led the school to numerous conference titles, Hatch noted.
"All thanks to Mrs. Douglas' intense badminton games and Coach Keller's trivia runs," she added. "Our class even had some of the best actors and actresses rock out the stage in the most rocking ways I've ever seen anyone pull off."
Another senior, Donna Cahill, said the class will always remember its bonds amongst one another and the trials that came during high school.
"We each have a remarkably different life story, and each story has a different ending," Cahill said. "But when we look back on our high school experiences is when we will remember our bonds and the trials we faced together that started it all."
There wasn't much thought for Lane Frank as he went from the auditorium to various shows and activities before COVID-19.
"My mind was constantly focused on my next project and I was balancing the heavyweight load of finishing high school, extracurriculars and finding where to proceed with my education," he said. "...I was not prepared for all this being taken away in a moment's instance.
"This year has not been what anyone could have pictured. However, these past few months have allowed us to learn more about ourselves than ever before."
Maddilyn Graves reminded students to enjoy their journey as the class of Panthers departs.
"As we accept our diplomas and walk off this stage today, we'll get on 130 different paths," Graves said. "Some will enter college in the fall, some will enter the workforce, and some will serve our country in the military. No matter where our paths lead, we're united by one thing: We're Panthers and we'll take everything life throws at us and overcome."
There were 131 students on the approved list for graduation submitted to the board last month.
Among the awards given during Sunday's ceremony was the top 10% students, based on their cumulative GPA. Those students were: Rebekah Brown, Meredith Clingman, Frank, Graves, Cael Robert Hollinrake, Noah Jobe, Abbey Jackson, Katie Keitges, Cade McDonald, Peyton McMurray, Lauren Micetich, Ethan Murra and Trent Walraven.