By TIM HORAN
Life and a cross country race have a lot in common.
That was the message National Honor Society President Macey Dinkel gave to the Abilene High School graduation class of 2013 in the AHS gym Saturday.
Dinkel knows a little about cross country, having participated in the sport at Abilene High and then earning a scholarship to continue running cross country at Bethany College in Lindsborg.
“Personally, I found enjoyment by running the golf courses in cross county,” she said. “When we started high school four years ago, we began a race that has lasted what seems like forever. As we entered those doors four years ago, we have to admit we were nervous. Like beginning a race, the starting line was crowded and full of emotions over what was to come.
“When the gun fired to start, we knew high school had begun and what we made of our own race was up to us,” she said.
Like a cross country race, high school had a lot of twists and turns, she said.
“Sometimes we accidentally stepped in a pothole and fell down,” Dinkel said. “Those times can be tough. Luckily, when we just wanted to step off to the side and quit, there was always someone there to help us up: our teammates.
“As classmates, we were always there for each other, whether it was offering words of encouragement, emotional support or simply a reminder text of the homework due,” she said. “When the race was halfway over, the pace sped up. Between
sports, school, jobs, familyand friends, time proved valuable.
“We were always on the go.”
Dinkel said that parents played an important role in the race to the finish line.
“When we were tired, breathing heavy and losing all momentum, our parents were there for us on the side of the course to hand us a bottle of water and cheer us on,” she said.
She called the senior year the “last quarter” of the race.
“At that moment, we realized the course contained an extra loop,” she said. “In the end of that loop, we had to get up the big hill. From the times where we barely moved, to the times when an energy burst propelled us up the hill, it was the experience and memories made through it all that we will cherish.
“The last nine weeks we sprinted our way to the finish line. Each of us gave it all we had to finish. Today is that day. The day we finally walk across the finish line.”
Up next is another race: whether going to college, technical school, entering the military or straight into the work force, Dinkel said.
She ended her speech with a quote by Abraham Lincoln, “Whatever you are, be a good one.”
Parents, families and friends packed the gym to witness the graduation of 119 Abilene students.
Principal Ben Smith greeted the graduates and guests, including Senior Airman Sean Hargraves from Kabul, Afghanistan who, via Skype, was there for his sister Katrina Hargraves who was graduating.
Smith recognized all the teachers in the district.
“We will hear lots of talk tonight about the last four, but please understand that we are all appreciative of the efforts that have occurred over the last 13 years,” Smith said. “We would not be able to do what we can do in this building without the tremendous efforts that occur in the other schools.”
Smith listed 15 famous people, among them Tom Cruise, Michael J. Fox, Billy Joel, Quentin Tarentino, Sean Connery and Jim Carrey, that did not graduate from high school.
“None of those people was able to accomplish what you have earned and stuck with over these four years,” he said. “Now, you may hear this list and think that education must not be very important. But for every Jim Carrey and Tom Cruise, and for every Richard Branson and George Eastman, there are literally thousands of examples of people who left school and were not successful in movies or business.
“Although we never want to tell young people to not chase their dreams, like the individuals listed above were able to do, you need to understand that by graduating from high school tonight, you are opening doors to the future that would be virtually impossible to walk through without a high school diploma.”
Smith said that the challenges that lie ahead of the graduates will be numerous.
“We will be defined in the end by how we treated people and how we lived our lives,” Smith said, “Not by the money we made or the things we acquired. The challenges are yours to work through, and the rewards will be yours to enjoy.”
Kurstin Guy and Sophia Pitney were co-valedictorians, both with 4.0 grade point averages. There was no salutatorian named.
The $1,000 Eisenhower Citizenship Awards went to Trevor Witt and Dacia Whiteley. The Dale Dennis Award went to Sophia Pitney.