Piedmont's perfect pitcher
Corey Sikes accomplished a goal Wednesday morning that was 13 years in the making, and it runs much deeper than graduating high school.
When the Piedmont senior showed up for graduation practice today, he was marked as present for the last time — completing a run of perfect attendance that started in kindergarten.
Thirteen school years equates to 2,340 school days, and Sikes never missed one.
"People ask me how I did it and I tell them 'I don't know,'" said Sikes, who also happens to be one of the most accomplished baseball players in the school's 54-year history. "'You don't get sick?' 'No.' There might have been days when I didn't feel like being there, but the Lord got me through it."
Sikes established his lofty goal after going through kindergarten without missing a day.
"I remember my parents telling me not many people make it all the way through school with perfect attendance, and that's when it started," he said. "After I made it through elementary school and middle school I thought I could get through high school without missing any days."
Corey's Dad, Mike, recalls the day he got a phone call one morning that his son had a tooth knocked out in recess. The fifth-grader needed to make an emergency trip to the dentist.
"It was pretty bad; he had to get a few stitches," Mike Sikes said. "He gets on the phone and says 'Dad, can you wait to come get me after 11:30 so I can be counted for the day?"
He also caught the flu in high school, according to his Dad, but fortunately it was on a Friday and he had the weekend to recover.
"I had some days when it was tough," Corey said. "But I always thought 'You've made it this far, why miss a day now?' I just made the best of it."
It helped that Sikes is a "morning person."
It became a routine for Sikes to arrive roughly a half-hour before school starts.
"Some of my teachers would joke around and give me a hard time about it," Sikes said. "I get up pretty early, usually around 6:15. I like the quiet time before school, and it gave me a little time to study."
Sikes said one of his bigger challenges was gearing down after baseball games during the week, especially in the rare instance when his team lost.
"It was rough getting into bed after some games," he said. "If we had a bad game I just tried to put it in the past and move on. I wake up in the morning and it's a new day."
It was also hard on him to miss the traditional Senior Skip Day.
"I was the only senior in the school that day," Sikes said. "There were definitely days I didn't want to be there and that was one of them, but I toughed it out and I don't regret it."
Sikes showed the same kind of commitment and determination on the baseball field. He was voted Union County Pitcher of the Year by The Enquirer-Journal as a junior and made the all-state team (ncpreps.com) after going 11-0 on the mound.
Piedmont's 2A state championship in 2013, combined with a trip to the 3A state finals in 2014, represents the most successful two-year stretch in the baseball program's proud history.
Sikes had a 22-7 record over his three-year varsity career, including a 7-1 record in the postseason. He ranks third in school history in career wins behind Andy Tomberlin (34) and Matt Foard (27).
"I enjoyed my high school baseball career a lot," Sikes said. "When I go to college I will be playing with guys from all over, but these guys I've been playing with since T-ball. I'm really going to miss playing with them."
Sikes signed a baseball scholarship with Division I Western Carolina University last November and looks forward to the next chapter of his life.
He graduates high school as an A-B honor roll student with a GPA slightly above 3.6 (on a 4.0 scale).
He feels good about making the most of his opportunity.
"It's a free education," he said. "The least I could do was show up."