Perry Street Prep senior Adrian Ray, right, was named the school’s Pride Athlete of the Year at a catered ceremony in the school gym. (Toni L. Sandys/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The students had barely left the building when the rented tables were rolled in and the transformation began. In a few short hours, Perry Street Prep, a public charter school in Northeast Washington, would welcome back its student-athletes and their families for a catered dinner in the school’s gymnasium. In a departure from previous years when the ceremony was held in the auditorium, Athletic Director Tal Bayer wanted something extra special for the students this year.

“We don’t usually hold events in our gymnasium because it tears up the floor,” Bayer said, “but this year I said ‘You know what? We’re going to be hanging all of theses new banners (for basketball and rugby) so let’s make it something special.’”  

In button-down shirts and dresses, the students dined on salmon and chicken before being honored for their accomplishments, and the smiles on the faces of the students and the family members made the extra effort worth it.

“It’s awesome to have that time where you just kind of step back and recognize the kids for what they’ve done,” Bayer said. “And to see them receive recognition from their families and friends makes it even more special.”

After dinner, each of the school’s coaches was given time to recognize the athletes on his or her team. From players of the year, to all-conference, to most improved, a steady stream of students rose from their seats to collect trophies at the front of the gym.

“I wasn’t really expecting to have so many awards because I dealt with so many injuries this year,” senior Adrian Ray, 18, said. “I went mostly to support my brothers and my teammates for all of their hard work this year.”

But by the end of the night, Ray had his hands full. Playing both football and rugby for Perry Street, Ray has always dedicated himself to his teammates. Within the first week of last fall’s football season, Ray had suffered two high ankle sprains.

“It was really difficult, but I was a leader on the football team so I couldn’t take days off — practice five days a week and then a big game on Friday night,” Ray said. “I always had to take three hours of my time after practice to ice my ankles even though it didn’t really help.”

Ray plans on playing collegiate rugby, so he skipped playing winter sports to heal and prepare for the spring rugby season.  

Then, in late spring before the rugby season ended, Ray found himself on crutches with a torn meniscus. Again, he didn’t quit. Every practice and game, Ray stood by and supported his teammates while balancing on crutches along the sideline.

And for that, Ray was awarded the biggest honor of the night — Pride Athlete of the Year.

“I’ve got a lot of outstanding athletes that pay multiple sports,” Bayer said, “but he’s an outstanding athlete with a great GPA and a great attitude. He’s a team leader and a team player on and off the field. . . . You can’t ask for a better kid than that.”

“It was amazing to accept that award,” Ray said, “knowing that would probably be the last time I would accept an award like that in front of all of the friends and family that helped support me in football, rugby, and life in general.”