Wiregrass Ranch girls cross country coach Don Howard knew three of his top seniors were smart.
Earlier this month, he found out just how bright Nikita Shah, Emily Payne and Hannah Eder are.
The three cross country teammates are tied for the school’s valedictorian honors with 4.65 GPAs.
“I’ve had a valedictorian before,” Howard said, “but I’ve certainly never had three tied at the top.”
The school’s guidance department told Howard that if all three earn straight As, this semester, they’ll share the status at No. 1.
Shah was the Times’ North Suncoast runner of the year last season and is a state champion contender after placing fourth in Class 3A last fall. She’s being recruited by Florida, Florida State, Harvard and Cornell and is taking an official visit to Columbia this week.
Payne finished in the top 10 in the conference last season, and Eder won the long jump and triple jump in the conference track meet in the spring while earning honors as the SAC’s field event athlete of the year.
Howard said the girls’ intelligence doesn’t necessarily translate into speed, but the work ethic required to become a valedictorian helps a lot.
“I’m not sure being smart makes you a better runner,” Howard said, “but all the things it takes to be a successful student-athlete – many of them apply to being a successful endurance athlete.”
Pictured: Nikita Shah