The school year has come to a close, Ascension Parish high school graduation ceremonies have ended and life for the graduates is taking a new turn. It’s a time for reflection, as well as a time to look to the future.

This column covers sports, and if one might give it much thought, high school athletics are a lot like life in general. There are lots of dreams in the hearts of boys and girls, along with some lofty goals set for their future. Some of those dreams and goals will be fulfilled, and some won’t.

The Ascension Catholic High School girls won their state track meet, an accomplishment that created memories of a lifetime. The girls’ softball teams from Dutchtown, East Ascension and St. Amant had an opportunity to win the state softball championship; that didn’t quite work out.

There were many other teams that competed in playoffs in football, basketball, track, etc., that didn’t come out on top.

There were a lot of individual accomplishments throughout this high school year that resulted with scholarships for several local athletes to continue their paths in the sports arena. I’m sure some have dreams and hopes of one day making it in the professional ranks.

We celebrate the victories because they are well-deserved and because of the effort put in by the coaches and athletes. The blood, sweat, time and, yes, even the tears are all real in the development of individual efforts that produce a successful team.

Along with the victories come the struggles. A new school that doesn’t have a lot of athletes to choose from suffers through some tough times knowing that the season is probably not going to be that great. So, instead of playoff hopes, a team and its coach might well play the season hoping for one more victory than last year.

Another team might go through years of struggle and a coach comes along who has what it takes to turn things around. There are individual struggles, as well. An athlete might well spend a considerable time developing his skills with the dreams of continuing on after high school but it just doesn’t work like planned.

For all the thrills of victory that might be experienced in our kids who compete in high school sports, there are usually more times that the agony of defeat takes place. As life goes on, the highs of the victories often fade with time, but what is developed through the agonies of defeat can last for a lifetime. It’s through struggles that character can develop to help a student make it through life.

I remember like it was yesterday, looking at the pond out of the window of my American history class while taking my last test of my high school days. The EA class of 1971 would be the second class to make the plunge in the hospital pond. The years that passed since have come with some victories in life, along with some agony.

Young men and women celebrate the victories but always remember what got you through the tough times. That’s what will get you through life. Congratulations to the graduating classes of our high schools and welcome to your future.

Tortoise versus vehicle

We’re all probably pretty familiar with the story about the tortoise and the hare. The tortoise plods on at a slow but steady pace, while the hare, who is 100 times faster than its counterpart, plays around a lot and loses the race.

During the spring of the year, there is another race, and the tortoise usually doesn’t fare too well. At this time of year, our slow-moving friends start to become more active in response to spring rains and warming temperatures, as they have been mostly dormant for several months.

Turtles are particularly vulnerable to road-crossing injuries, as their mechanism of defense when danger is perceived causes them to withdraw inside their shell, and that makes them sitting ducks (really, turtles) to oncoming traffic.

This time of the year means new birth to the animal kingdom, so part of the problem is mamas trying to find a place to lay their eggs, lonely turtles looking for love or just hungry trying to find something to eat. They could even be looking for a new place to call home. These animals were designed to survive in the woods and wilderness, so a road is very foreign to them. It’s not easy for one to get across the road, so be careful when you drive.

Here are a few tips for helping animals survive a road crossing:

Be alert as you drive. If you see a dark shape in the road ahead, don’t assume it is debris. This time of year, especially, it may likely be wildlife.

Be especially cautious near bodies of water and on rainy nights. Turtles, frogs and salamanders are all moving around this time of year, and water is usually where they are coming from or going to.

If you see an animal and can do so safely, slow down and maneuver around them at a minimum.

If you see an animal and cannot maneuver around it safely, at least try to avoid hitting it with your tires. Many animals will clear a vehicle’s chassis and can be passed over without harm.

If you are a kind soul who wants to stop and help, the first thing to remember is traffic safety. Never cause a human safety hazard for yourself or other motorists. Be aware also of the effect a stopped vehicle has on other traffic. People may be focusing on your vehicle and hit an animal they might otherwise have avoided.If you can move a turtle safely, make sure you are moving it in the direction it was headed.Bring it as far off the road as it is safe and legal to do.

Animal rehab facilities are common, but I didn’t know you could get a broken turtle fixed. The Louisiana Exotic Animal Resource Network is a nonprofit organization that provides rehab for reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates in north Louisiana. All their information can be found at www.learnaboutcritters.org or texting (318) 773-9393.

If you find an injured animal, contact a wildlife rehabilitator. A list of rehabilitators can be found at www.wlf.louisiana.gov/wildlife/rehab.

Lyle Johnson covers sports for The Ascension Advocate. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net or ascension@theadvocate.com.