It’s that time of year when young men and women make that first step into true adulthood, graduation. For some, it’s on to college, others will join the military, and still others will go directly into the workforce. The class of 2018 will have many challenges but they will also have many successes.
First, there are the Zeiler twins, Marcus and Faith. I have had the privilege of watching them grow up in various gyms and athletic fields around the valley and the state. Well, that’s not exactly true. I watched Marcus as he excelled in any sport that involved a ball and even track, too. Even with injuries in his junior year, he still made a difference for the Falcons and the Bitterroot Bucs.
Faith, on the other hand, pursued a different course. She found her passion early and has been working on it for years, and now she’s teaching it, too. Her passion? Dance, specifically tap dance. Early on, I knew Faith would dance to her own tune. Instead of staying in Florence with her sibling, she attended Stevensville where she was a cheerleader. But it has always been dance that inspires her. The twins have always been there to cheer each other on and I’m sure they will continue to do so.
Brianna Hoffman of Florence may have only been a Lady Falcon for a couple of years, but she’s left her mark on the softball field at Florence. She moved to Florence the summer before her junior year and went to work. Already a skilled pitcher, she worked hard to become a Lady Falcon. The work paid off and Florence earned their ninth state championship with Hoffman at the helm. This year, at the state tournament, Hoffman injured her back while batting during the undefeated game leading up to the championship game. After a couple of treatments by a Belgrade chiropractor, she came back to allow only two runs in the championship game and strike out 13 batters. I think her motto may be, ‘don’t quit.’
Stevensville’s Megan Pendergast has been a workhorse throughout her high school career. Whether it’s basketball, soccer, volleyball or track, she has been a leader on the court in her quiet way. But she accomplished something this spring that few athletes in the state have accomplished. Pendergast stood on the podium at state in the same event all four years of her high school career. She placed second in the 300 hurdles in 2018, 2016, 2015, and third in 2018. She was also on the podium in the 100 hurdles in the state finals for 2016-2017 and 2018, where she placed sixth, second and fourth, respectively. That’s a pretty darn good accomplishment while being a three-sport athlete. Her hard work certainly paid off.
Victor’s Eli Rosen has been a standout on the football field for the last four years. He’s also a top student at Victor. But up until this year, he opted for snowboarding as his winter sport. This year, he stepped out of his comfort zone and into the hot gym to play basketball. His natural athleticism was an asset and he definitely helped the Pirates.
Samantha Riggs came to Victor last spring. She wanted to play basketball and worked hard on the court. Her enthusiasm sometimes overcame her play and fouls were a large part of her game. But she was happy to be given a chance to play and played her heart out.
The first thing I noticed about this little girl running around the court, shooting baskets, was her smile. That smile is still in place 10 or 11 years later. Mallory McGill lights up the court, the softball field, or the soccer field with her smile. But that smile can be deceiving. She’s a fierce competitor and won’t let anything get in her way.
Tyler Chouinard (I’m going to miss typing that name) has always been the quiet player on the field or the court. But when you get to watching him, he’s the one making things happen. During football, he pulled in an amazing 1,348 yards receiving, surpassing Marc Mariani who played for the University of Montana Grizzlies and then went on to play in the NFL. Chouinard was also a force on the Hamilton Broncs basketball team. His quiet demeanor on the floor caused more than one turnover or assist or even a few points. Keep your eye, and your focus, on your goals, and nothing can stop you.
Tayler Wright of Corvallis has been on my radar since she was tiny. Her mother and my daughter were in the same class and on the same teams throughout their school years. Tayler and her twin, Bailey, were brought up playing all sports but soon basketball and track became Tayler’s passion. She’s not the tallest but more than once she had to play the post in the middle of towering opponents. That didn’t deter her, though, she fought right through them for the rebound or the basket. This year, in track, she qualified for the state meet in the javelin and placed third. Way to persevere.
Ridge Albright is another one of those quiet kids that you don’t really notice until all of a sudden, he’s on the radar, hitting three-point shots, winning at the hurdles, or winning the state at the high jump. He’s a hard worker who is able to shut out distractions and make a difference.
Peyton Muir of Darby is another one who always has a smile on her face no matter what. Throughout her athletic career she’s had a few injuries but she’s been right there, encouraging her team until she was able to be back out there playing. A smile and a good attitude will go a long way in this life; keep it up, Peyton.
Aaron Hanson, another Darby Tiger, has shown a strong work ethic and willingness to work hard at whatever he does. His play on the basketball team improved each and every game. He was also on the golf team and had a good season on the greens, too. His true love, though, is music. His ability to look at all sorts of activities and learn from them will make life interesting for him.
Congratulations to the class of 2018. Work hard at whatever you choose to do, but remember to enjoy life, too.