Gage Crane, a Smithton High senior, was headed to the FBLA national competition before it was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of looks at Pettis County seniors who are experiencing a nontraditional end to their high school careers and preparing for the next chapter in their lives.

There are a lot of frustrations for Gage Crane about the unceremonious end to his senior year at Smithton High School, but he’s taking a realistic view of it all.

“It sucks, but how can you plan for a pandemic? We haven’t been through anything like this before and we’ve just got to roll with punches,” he said. “We are making the best we can of it. It’s not ideal at all but we have to keep moving.”

Gage certainly kept moving through his high school career, playing for the Tigers boys basketball and baseball teams and being involved in FBLA, National Honor Society, FFA, the Math Team and the Science Olympiad Team. With COVID-19 precautions closing schools and terminating spring activities, the two things Gage has missed most are FBLA and baseball.

By finishing in the top five in the advertising event at the state FBLA competition, Gage earned a spot to compete at nationals. The competition is a test over advertising knowledge, so Gage would spend the final five to 10 minutes of his daily business class studying for the exam. Unfortunately, the FBLA nationals were canceled.

A left fielder and second baseman for Smithton’s baseball team, Gage saw the same thing happen to the Tigers’ season.

“It was definitely heartbreaking,” he said. “A lot of our friends have been playing baseball together for seven or eight years, then to get the last ride pulled from us definitely stung. We had a chance to be really good this year, we were going to show out, but I guess not.”

The transition to distance learning online has been “more challenging for me, even though I have the freedom of doing work whenever I want to do it,” Gage said. “I just like an in-class instructor; I am a visual learner. It is definitely easier having someone teaching me what I am doing rather than learning it through Google Classroom or a video conference.”

Gage has experience with online classes, having taken dual-credit Public Speaking through State Fair Community College. While that was manageable, he prefers to be in a classroom.

Gage misses not only the structure of the school day but also “seeing my friends every day and talking to the teachers who I have gotten close to.” Through the school closure he has kept up with friends via text messages, FaceTime and Snapchat; they also play video games online together.

A couple of traits Gage said he will carry with him from his days at Smithton are a healthy work ethic and study skills. He credits Tigers boys basketball Head Coach Rich Pond and Assistant Coach Darrell Sypes for honing his work ethic.

“I think I definitely will carry that going forward,” Gage said. “I also have learned how to study effectively in science and business classes.”

His science classes, which were home to a snake and a couple of lizards, also created an opportunity for Gage to open his eyes and his heart.

“Our science classes made me love animals I never thought I would love in my life,” he said. “I wanted no part of them at first, but I learned that some things are not as they seem, and you should always give things a chance.”

After graduation, Gage will attend the State Technical College of Missouri in Linn to study in a two-year electrical engineering program.

“I have always been into computers and the technical side of building them,” he said. “Also, my grandpa was an electrician and he drove me toward that career field.”

Through all the challenges posed by the pandemic, Gage has appreciated the outpouring of support from the community. He also wants teachers to know how much the Class of 2020 and all students admire and miss them.

“I hope they take it to heart and realize they have been doing a good job the whole time even though they have those hard days. We are always friends with them even when they give us stuff that we don’t necessarily like,” he said. “Especially at a small school, you definitely make bonds with your teachers.”

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