It’s been three months since they were together, on Thursday, March 12, an early end to the school week with an in-service day scheduled Friday. They were ready for a long weekend highlighted by the Who’s Who Senior Dance on Friday.
But not long after Clearview Regional High School seniors got into their cars and school buses that day, a somewhat ominous message came from the school.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, The Who’s Who Senior Dance sponsored by DECA for Friday, March 13, has been postponed. It will be rescheduled.
“We were all excited we were going to see each other the next night and then the dance was canceled,” senior Gigi McAlpin said. “That Monday we went to pick up our books and then we never ended up going back. It’s so crazy.”
But McAlpin, who will begin her journey to medical school at Case Western Reserve University in August, holds onto one historic memory that still made her senior year worth bragging about.
In November, McAlpin helped lead the Pioneers to the field hockey program’s first state championship in school history. Clearview knocked off Warren Hills, a school that was appearing in its eighth consecutive Group 3 state final, in the title game, then advanced to the semifinals of the Tournament of Champions, too, by knocking off Group 2 champ Shore Regional in the TOC opening round.
“I honestly couldn’t have asked for anything better,” McAlpin said in a phone interview last week. “Knowing I was lucky enough to play in the fall and do something as incredible as winning states, it honestly brings so much joy to me. I can’t imagine how terrible it would feel if I was in a (spring) sport now and I wasn’t able to play, especially for those like me who aren’t planning to play in college … So I’m very grateful I was able to enjoy such an incredible senior season.
“I didn’t realize how lucky I was until now.”
Known for being the fastest player on the field no matter the opponent, fueling the Pioneers’ attack while also thwarting the opponents penalty corners as a dominant flier, McAlpin didn’t just capitalize on her senior season but also stuck the landing at what was the end of her field hockey career. Earlier in the school year, McAlpin made the decision to focus on academics in college, turning down the opportunity to play Division-I field hockey.
“She was heavily sought by several colleges,” Clearview coach Britney Ewan said. “Unfortunately I had to let them know she wasn’t pursuing hockey because she’s going into medical school. She’s very smart and she wanted to focus on her career.”
McAlpin decided to leave the game behind because she was following her first passion. The youngest of Fred and Jackie McAlpin’s three children, Gigi has wanted to work in the medical field for as long as she can remember.
“Since I was in preschool, I always knew I wanted to follow my dad’s footsteps,” said McAlpin, whose father is an orthopedic surgeon. “It’s never changed.”
McAlpin will study biology and pre-med at Case Western, which U.S. World News & World Report ranked as the 24th best med school in the country for research.
“There are four or five hospitals that are really close to campus, including the Cleveland clinic, which is really renowned,” McAlpin said. “They talked about the opportunities of getting to shadow surgeons there and do volunteer work. So it was the perfect school, I loved the campus. Everything about it was perfect.”
If there’s one imperfection, it’s that, among the 17 Division-III programs at the school, Case Western doesn’t have a field hockey team.
“I wish they at least had a club team for pickup, but I felt like I had to do what I felt was best to try to focus on my education rather than sports,” said McAlpin, who has an older sister studying engineering at Rutgers and an older brother on the football team at the University of Maine.
“I knew if I did D-I (athletics) they ask a lot of you,” McAlpin continued, explaining her reluctance to juggle field hockey with a rigorous major. “I personally made the decision that I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it. I know that field hockey won’t bring me very far in my future, so I need to focus on something that will help me support myself and a family in the future.
“I knew I had to give it up.”
It was a mature decision, but also one that left McAlpin in tears after her final high school game, when reality hit that she wouldn’t ever play again. But she put her future first and can still hold onto her high school memories.
“I’m so excited (my seniors) went out with a bang,” Ewan said of a senior class that was also a part of history two years ago, winning the first sectional championship in program history.
“I couldn’t be happier for them,” Ewan continued, “and they deserve it. They’ve been a part of the feeder program and worked their way up. And they’re great people.
“On and off the field, Gigi is the nicest person you’ll ever talk to. So that makes it even better that they were able to achieve that goal their senior year.”