The arrival of football captain Leo Lowin's championship ring last week was, he said, "the cherry on top" of years of hard work and a stunning victory shutout for his Westlake High School Chaparrals football team.
A glittery, dazzling, gem-encrusted—and hefty—cherry, perched proudly on top of a roller coaster year. It landed on players' hands last Thursday.
"It's some shining positivity finally emerging from the quarantine days," said Tony Salazar, assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the Chaparrals.
The ring is also a fitting symbol of the enduring cultural importance that high school football plays in Texas—and the reverence with which its champions are celebrated.
"[Head Coach] Todd Dodge really went elite with the rings," said Sage Luther, 18, another team captain and May graduate, who heads to Colgate University in the fall. "I would say we have the biggest rings in the state. We have really worked hard for it."
Already a formidable team and iconic football school in its own right, the Chaparrals won the 6A Division 2 state championship after defeating Denton Guyer 24-0 in December.
It was the second championship in the team's history. The first was in 1996, when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees was a senior on the team.
"When I watched that clock hit zero, I was kind of overcome with emotion," recalled Lowin, 18, a team captain who also played safety for the Chaps. "It's something special you always dream about as a little kid. We finally made it happen."
Ordered in January and delayed for months by the pandemic, the rings arrived one week before Lowin was set to head out to the East Coast, where he'll play football for the Army Black Knights at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
"All the work we did, just to finally get those rings to show up," Lowin said. "They look great."
Most of the players got the silver $300 variety, Lowin said, with their team number, their name and the words "State Champions" embossed on the ring, and personalized inscriptions inside the band. The white gold version cost nearly $1,000, he said.
Lowin also ordered a display box, which is likely where the ring will spend most of its time.
"They're obviously pretty big, so I don't know if I'll be wearing it all the time," Lowin said with a laugh. "Whenever we come back for a reunion, I'll have to break it out."
Dodge said the timing couldn't have been better.
"Especially for our seniors that are almost going off to college now, they had a chance to get their rings," Dodge said. "It was a really special day."
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Vaccine week 13: Travis County to receive more than 75K doses of vaccine thanks to Johnson & Johnson bump
Eighty-seven providers in Travis County will receive a total of 75,540 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for the week of March 8 as part of the 13th weekly allocation, a nearly 62% increase compared to last week's. The significant increase is largely due to inclusion of the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which received an emergency use authorization from the FDA last weekend.
The bulk will go to hub providers Austin Public Health and UT Health Austin, the clinical wing of Dell Medical School, as well as to Seton Medical Center, which will receive the largest share of this week's shipment. These three providers will either receive doses from Moderna or Pfizer.
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