More than just a number

Recognized jersey one of highest athletic honors…

Katelyn Cain | Staff Writer

When walking into the Mason Middle School Arena, people will see adorned on the walls the jerseys of Michelle Muñoz and Angela Bizzarri, MHS graduates of 2001 and 2006, respectively — the only jerseys that have ever been recognized in Mason High School history. According to Assistant Athletic Director Eric Silverman, although a recognized jersey is not the same thing as a retired jersey, it’s no small feat to have your jersey recognized, which is one of the reasons Mason has so few.

“[Getting your jersey recognized is] one of the highest honors you can receive, because it signi es that you were so much better and…far[ther] above the best while you were at Mason, and that’s a very high standard to meet,” Silverman said.

According to Silverman, Muñoz, a girls’ basketball player, and Bizzarri, a girls’ cross country runner, were chosen because of their momentous athletic achievements.

“[Muñoz] was on the 2000 state championship [basketball] team; she was a two-time Miss Ohio in basketball, which is the award given to the top [girls’] basketball player in the state and she won it two years in a row,” Silverman said. “And [Bizzarri] was a two-time state champion in cross country, a three-time state champion in the 3200-meter [run] in track, and she holds numerous records for both track and cross country.”

According to Athletic Director Scott Stemple, Mason does not have a specific procedure for recognizing a jersey.

“We don’t really have a procedure [for recognizing jerseys] at Mason,” Stemple said. “[Muñoz’s]…jersey recognizing was driven by the head [girls’ basketball] coach at the time, Jerry Lackey, and [he] just wanted to do that to recognize her [for] being named Miss Basketball [of Ohio].”

Stemple said that if a proposal for a recognized jersey did arise, the Athletic Council would make the decision to recognize a jersey if a new athlete was considered.

“If a jersey retirement was proposed, then I would put that through our Athletic Council, [which] is a board of coaches, a representative of the Superintendent and the Principal and the Athletic Department,” Stemple said. “We would evaluate the proposal and then make a recommendation to the school board to [recognize the jersey]. There are no criteria in place right now because…our intention [is not] to recognize jerseys every day.”

According to Silverman, the council would look for specific qualities in an athlete when considering recognizing a jersey.

“We’d look for a phenomenal, one-of-a-kind athlete,” Silverman said. “Someone who represented their school…[and] team well. Their athletic accomplishments [would have to be] so far above and beyond what a normal high school athlete would accomplish.”

Silverman said the reason Mason has only had two jerseys recognized is because, athletically, the district only started getting successful when it began to grow and excel against fierce competition.

“When you look at a lot of our athletic successes, [you can see that] they’ve only been recent,” Silverman said. “That is mainly because of the growth of our school district…but that doesn’t mean that there [are] athletes from [the past] that don’t deserve it, but it’s one of those [situations] where you have to look at what those accomplishments were and for that time period [and ask yourself], ‘Is that type of honor warranted?’”

Silverman said that although the retiring of jerseys honors athletes’ accomplishments while they were at Mason, the Athletic Council tends to wait until after the athlete has graduated before retiring the jersey.

“[Recognizing a jersey is] like an induction to the Hall of Fame,” Silverman said. “It’s typically after the athlete leaves the program, because it’s [a] recognition of what [he or she] accomplished while…[in high school]. There are very few instances when [the jersey will] be recognized while the athlete is still there.”

According to Stemple, Mason has leaned more towards public recognition than an actual retirement of jerseys.

“If you drive into Mason you’ll see…we’ve put signs in the arena…recognizing athletes that went to state and state champions,” Stemple said. “The track is also going to have some signage for [Bizzarri] and [senior cross country and track runner Zach Wills]. We’ve leaned more towards public recognition and displaying jerseys, rather than a retirement production.”