HendersonvillePete Zamplas

New grads cap legacies with fun days and memories: Express eagerness to surge into ‘changin’ ocean tides’ and for 2036 election

West Henderson’s Jackson Whiting, at left, and Samuel Littauer slide down the hill by practice fields. Photo by Pete Zamplas.
By Pete Zamplas – New graduates of Henderson County’s four public high schools got their diplomas Friday, after last hurrahs of camaraderie with classmates and treasuring skills learned and memories.

Several schools had recent senior fun time, on sunny days. North Henderson as usual frolicked at a picnic in Jackson Park on Thursday. Teachers and parents cooked burgers and hot dogs.

Several longtime friends played Kam Jam frisbee in the park. One teammate throws the disc, and the other is by the target to tip it into the hole top. Caroline Marsh drilled a rare ace serve, into the target’s slide slot. Doing so clinches the game.

Hendersonville seniors sing to rising seniors Friday, hours before graduating. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Marsh is used to making clutch shots. The basketball and volleyball star is honored as WNC’s best female athlete. She said she will miss “best friends” she has known since middle school. She realizes the picnic and graduation are the last times she will see many friends.

One of them also playing Kam Jam was three-sport NHHS star Austin VanHoy. He was a center fielder, track sprinter, and ballhawking interceptor and bruising tackler in football. Above all, he will miss how, in football, “you get to hit whomever you want” — and hard, as he routinely did causing fumbles. Upsetting Swain stood out. VanHoy will major in construction management at Western Carolina University.

Half of the class seems named Austin, making various achievements. Austin Nelson, the 6-foot-6 hoops point guard, was third team all-state. North’s all-time scorer and WNC’s third-best ever averaged 24 points for his four-year career along with seven rebounds and 2.5 steals, and 29 points his year as the Knights won their first 13 games. He will play wing for USC Upstate.

Beating Erwin in round two of playoffs was a highlight of 2016-17, in which the squad seemed closer than ever, Nelson said. “We’re all brothers, like a big family.”


Highlights of 2016-17 include Cyrena Bedoian and James Dillon crowned as HHS homecoming queen and king. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

East Henderson was the first to have a special senior day, on May 26. A picnic and yearbook signings followed outdoor activities such as hide ‘n seek and sliding downhill on a tarp as West Henderson traditionally does.

Weeks earlier, an East senior camp-out enabled “bonding,” Blakeley Bristol said. She was on East’s dance team, and played volleyball. Bristol tried soccer as a senior, as a goaltender, and has a scholarship from Converse College to play that sport. She eyes pre-med/biology, and a prenatal nursing career.

Her friend, Cornell-bound Annabelle Cram, wants to major in biomedical engineering then develop prosthetics. Her GPA was 4.0, 5.1 weighted. She is proud to hear that this time a dozen East grads neared the usual top GPA of recent classes. She said that reflected a healthy, “competitive” academic atmosphere.

Once West finished its slide down a steep hill by the football practice fields June 1, students helping close it up included Student Body President Samuel Littauer and fiery baseball catcher Jackson Whiting. The Falcons continued a winning tradition in many sports, beyond volleyball. West, North and Pisgah led the conference in baseball. Littauer, one of eight children, will miss the “brotherhood” from playing varsity tennis. Whiting will study business at N.C. State, and Littauer business management at Appalachian State.

Littauer is proud the West Student Body and North Henderson raised nearly $7,000 in a mere week for the STAR (formerly DARE) Camp for teens. They to learn from school resource deputies and health nurses how to better stand up to negative peer pressure, such as bullying or trying pain pills and other drugs. Littauer said while at West, community service “grew on me.”

Meanwhile, Hendersonville High (HHS) had its fun day in the fall. In spring, emphasis is instead on awards in the Move-Up assembly. It was Friday, in the historic auditorium. “Move-Up” is how juniors move up to rising seniors, right after seniors in caps and gowns literally walk out the door hours ahead of graduating.

A moving segment is when first juniors, then seniors stand and sing to the other class. Juniors chose country band Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish,” from 2006. Lines include hoping “your dreams stay big, your worries stay small.”

Seniors went back to 1975 for “Landslide,” a Fleetwood Mac folk rock ballad their grandparents recall. Stevie Nicks did vocals. Lyrics about maturing and facing change include: “Can I sail through the changin’ ocean tides? Can I handle the seasons of my life?” The Leadership Class chose four finalists, that seniors voted on.

HHS also looked ahead, to the presidential election of 2036 with award presenters half-seriously touting charismatic Student Body President James Dillon as a future commander in chief. Dillon was homecoming king. He won such awards as the last one presented Friday, the R. Hugh Lockaby Award for leadership, and The Stiff Upper Lip Award for acting.

He starred in the play Crazy For You, as banker Bobby Child who wants to go into musical career — and eventually does. Dillon told The Tribune he, too, wants an acting career. He plans to give it a try for a year based in Atlanta, before falling back on college.

“Golden Toe” long-range football kicker Drew Eudy will study political science, at Carson-Newman. His highlight was kicking the game-winning field goal over conference arch-rival Heritage, as a sophomore. Friday it “hit me” how this wraps up his HHS era. He reminisced about classmates, teachers, assemblies and special events.

Homecoming queen Cyrena Bedoian was also the school’s Miss Senior. Her awards Friday included the HHS Legacy. Walt Cottingham, who is retiring after 42 years of teaching, presented it. He noted how Bedoian, in her scholarship application, wrote urging her classmates “immerse into the tradition, buy into the love.”

Toward the very end, senior class president Hakeem Jenkins said the 137-member Class of 2017 realizes it can “achieve just about anything, and learn just about everything.” Jenkins, a soccer standout, won the Cecil S. Kessler Cup award.

As graduating seniors gathered outside, Bedoian told The Tribune she feels “humbled by this school” and its rich traditions. She kept up a perfect 4.0 GPA, while busy as Student Body secretary and volleyball playmaker. She is going to study animal sciences in Berry (Ga.) College.

Nila Goodson, athlete and cheerleader who won the Bearcat Journey award, said she will miss “friends and memories.” So will Zach Cagle, Cagle, who will study auto mechanics, will above all miss three lifelong friends he graduates with.

Students from all four schools said as they go separate ways, they tried to value even more final times together and prepare for academic and work challenges and journeys.

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