By Brad Fauber -- firstname.lastname@example.org
After months and months of waiting and wondering, Juan Luna can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Luna, a rising senior at Stonewall Jackson who missed all of the 2011 school year while stuck in his native country of Mexico, got the news he was hoping for when he met with Virginia High School League officials on Monday: Luna will be granted athletic eligibility for the fall semester.
The ruling was music to Luna's ears, as he wasn't sure he would ever again take the field for the Stonewall Jackson football team, with which he is a kicker.
"It's definitely one of the greatest feelings in the world," Luna said during a phone interview Tuesday. "We've been trying to get a meeting with [Deputy Director of the VHSL Tom Zimorski] for so long. He finally called Mr. [Mike] Dorman [Stonewall Jackson's principal] and we got the meeting and everything just went perfect."
Luna, born in Guanajuato, Mex., moved to the United States in 2001 and returned to his native country in July 2011 to obtain his U.S. permanent residency card. The process lasted eight months and Luna was not allowed out of the country, forcing him to miss his senior year of high school.
Luna, also a member of the varsity soccer team, was granted athletic eligibility for the spring 2013 semester in April of this year, but a hearing before the VHSL was required to determine his status for the upcoming fall season.
Luna made the trip to Charlottesville on Monday with his parents and Dorman, and Luna was given 20 minutes to explain his situation to a three-person committee, which then voted whether or not to grant Luna eligibility.
A vote of 2-1 or better in favor of Luna's eligibility was required, and Luna said he won his appeal in a unanimous vote. He credits Dorman with ultimately swaying the committee's decision.
"The very last thing Mr. Dorman told them was, 'This kid was without his family for almost a year. I know probably all of you have kids. Now imagine going to a foreign country, to the airport, and telling them goodbye for almost a year,'" Luna recalled. "I honestly think that's what got them, what touched them the most."
Luna said he has been practicing with the football team since the Generals first opened practice on July 30 just in case he would be allowed to suit up for the 2012 season.
He hopes to kick at the college level after graduating high school, and he said he has attended kicking camps at James Madison, Old Dominion and Bucknell over the past few years.