One of the highest tributes for an athlete is making SportsCenter. Carly Sinnott's friends made it happen for the high school volleyball player, launching a social media campaign to have her featured on ESPN in the weeks following the death of the local teen.
The hashtag Twitter campaign #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter went viral, and the Bristol, Conn., headquarters of ESPN was watching. On early Wednesday morning, Sinnott was featured on ESPN2’s midnight edition SportsCenter, showcasing her as one of its “3 Stars of the Night.”
Sinnott died early in the morning of May 13, after falling 50 feet the previous night while hiking in the Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam. The 17-year-old Sinnott was a junior at Mekeel Christian Academy and a Clifton Park resident. She had previously attended Shenendehowa schools.
After highlights aired of games from both the NBA and NHL conference finals, SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt explained the circumstances surrounding Sinnott’s death and the subsequent social media campaign to get the area teen onto ESPN’s flagship show.
“We hate that this is the reason why [she’s on SportsCenter], but the least we could do is honor that wish and her,” said Van Pelt, one of ESPN’s most well-known personalities.
In the hours after Sinnott’s death, an idea was hatched amongst her friends to memorialize her in a big way. Scotty Voelker, a 17-year-old classmate of Sinnott’s from Ballston Lake, said that’s how the #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter movement started.
“After the incident happened, we were all talking and we all wanted to do something to glorify her,” Voelker said. “We wanted to get it out there how great of a person she was.”
For help spreading the word, Voelker — a good friend of Matt Meisenholder, Sinnott’s boyfriend who had attempted to rescue her after her fall — reached out to Dylan Rossiter. He's a Schodack teenager who helps manage the popular @SMACKHighNY account on Twitter; Voelker hoped the stranger could help jumpstart the #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter campaign.
“I’d never met Carly,” said Rossiter, a 16-year-old sophomore at Maple Hill. “I’d never even met anyone from Mekeel.”
Rossiter, though, said he saw no reason not to try to help. The night of May 14, he tweeted out a photo of Sinnott playing volleyball with the words, “Everyone please RT: volleyball captain from Mekeel dies in freak accident, let's honor her #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter.”
What followed was a shock to Voelker, Rossiter and the rest.
“Within five minutes, we had 150 retweets,” Rossiter said of his tweet. “Within five minutes. That’s when I said, ‘Something is going to happen.’ ”
The ensuing #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter campaign took off with numerous tweets. The initial post from @SMACKHighNY continued to be retweeted; as of Wednesday evening, it had more than 2,200 retweets and had been favorited nearly 1,200 times.
While the campaign took off immediately, it was not until late Tuesday evening that there was any inkling anyone at ESPN had noticed.
Then, a little before 10 p.m., Van Pelt tweeted out that Sinnott would be on SportsCenter sometime between 11 and 12:30. Van Pelt later issued a couple follow-up tweets to provide a more specific time for the airing of Sinnott’s segment, which ran just after midnight.
“We were all in shock that it worked,” Voelker said.
“It was short, but it was so rewarding to see it,” said Rossiter. “It was perfect. He [Van Pelt] did a great job with it.”
In all, SportsCenter’s segment about Sinnott ran approximately 45 seconds, with a picture of her face appearing alongside Van Pelt as he spoke about her.
The segment led into a commercial and ended with Van Pelt saying, “Carly Sinnott, my star of the night.”