LAND O'LAKES — Emily Miles pointed her small pink camera at herself and Brittany Macera as they smiled together.
The Land O'Lakes High School seniors wanted to collect one more memory before their last day of school ended.
"I just want to be able to savor every last minute with everybody," said Miles, who had clicked off more than 400 photos of friends in the past few days. "I really want pictures with everybody."
That — along with free food — lured Miles, who will attend Santa Fe College in the fall, to the Class of 2010 field day and picnic Wednesday morning after graduation practice.
Several seniors bolted from the school before principal Ric Mellin finished telling them that they were free to go. But many others wanted to soak up the final moments of their high school careers with the friends they have known since they were kids.
"This is where all my friends are," said Lailoni Kailimai, who will study engineering at the University of Central Florida in the fall, as she watched classmates race up an inflatable waterslide and then splash back down. "This is the last time I'm going to see these people."
Kailimai and the others were intent on having fun. That's what school has been to them.
"We have a lot of school spirit," said a sopping Austin Aubuchon after climbing off the waterslide. He will head to Santa Fe College in the fall. "We're trying to enjoy our last day and get the most out of it."
For some, that meant playing a pickup football game on the school field. Others squirted each other with squirt guns.
For Laura Oergel, it was all about the yearbook.
Oergel toted three yearbooks in one arm, a bag filled with colored markers in the other. Her goal: To get as many friends' signatures and thoughts as possible. She already had scheduled some signing dates for over the summer, too.
"It's nice to have the memories of your friendship crystallized on paper," said Oergel, who plans to study pharmacy at the University of Central Florida.
Some of the school's International Baccalaureate students talked over hot dogs and chips about how they had purged their school papers in a bonfire the night before.
"We had to cleanse our souls," explained Cassandra Short, who plans to study theater and psychology at UCF.
The IB seniors said their course work had been tough, often preventing them from participating in many school activities. But they said it helped them prepare for college, while also giving them a close-knit group of friends.
"In the end, you're probably going to be better off," said Nicholas Aubourg, who is headed to Vanderbilt University to study music performance and biology.
Many of the seniors heaped praise on their teachers and counselors for preparing them for what comes next. They said the school had a vibe that made them enjoy their time, despite the occasional drama.
"I thought I was going to hate it, that I wasn't going to meet anyone," said Katherine Neto, who transferred to Land O'Lakes as a senior after three years at Blake High in Tampa. "But I ended up meeting a lot of cool people. … There's this atmosphere when you come here. You feel it when you go to football games. Everybody is so excited."
It comes with the history and pride in their school, said Neto, who plans to study at Santa Fe College.
"There's a bunch of good kids here," said Julian Harris, who intends to enlist in the Air Force. "I'm just glad we all made it."
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.