NEW PORT RICHEY — Pomp and Circumstance is typically a marching kind of song, but Kelsey Seward couldn't help but sway as she stood by her seat waiting for the rest of the senior class to file into the school gymnasium at J.W. Mitchell High.
"I'm trying to keep myself awake," she said brightly, as she bobbed back and forth. "It's way too early for this."
Perhaps, a little bit — it was a just a few minutes after 9 a.m. Friday — and graduation is a week away, after all. But they say practice makes perfect, and that's just what assistant principal and graduation director Jessica Schultz was hoping for as she gave last minute orders on the last day of graduation practice for Mitchell's Class of 2009.
At 480, they're the school's largest senior class. On May 30 most will don cap and gown and trek across the stage at the University of South Florida's Sun Dome to receive a handshake and a diploma. Afterward they'll meet in the back to toss their caps.
And that will be that.
They have been a cohesive bunch, says their class president and school soccer star, Laura Seletos, in spite of what they've endured because of staff changes over the last four years.
"We've gone through different sponsors and three different principals," said Laura, who is headed to Stetson University. "But the class has stayed very close-knit."
"We're a very eclectic group," said Trevor Williams, senior class vice president and editor of the 2009 Stampede yearbook. "We each have our own niche and that makes us a special class."
Some have definitely stood out.
Ian Gibbons was one of two Pasco County students to be named a National Merit Finalist. Patrick Schuster gained national attention for pitching four no-hitters in a row for the baseball team — a state record and two shy of the national record.
Then there's Emma Ramsay-Wood, Wes Johnes and Shea Taylor, who all will be flying home just in time for the graduation after competing next week in the Odyssey of the Mind World Finals in Iowa.
"It's been a great year," said Patrick Schuster, who has accepted a scholarship to the University of Florida but is considering going professional depending on the outcome of the baseball draft in June. "A lot of attention has been brought to the school and I'm proud of that. Off the baseball field as well as on, this school has been great to me."
With graduation a week away, few seemed to be focused on the finality of it all.
"It hasn't hit me yet," Trevor said. "Maybe after practice is over …"
Others were raring to go.
"I think it's awesome," said Bianca Lee, who is getting a head start on a career as a registered nurse by graduating a year early as part of the three-year program. "I'm a little bit nervous, but it's exciting, too."
"I can't wait," said Kelsey Seward, who, in case you were wondering, is indeed a descendent of William Seward, who orchestrated the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867. "I'll be out of school. I can focus on some of my goals."
Others had mixed feelings.
"It's kind of upsetting but I'm really looking forward to college," said Emma Ramsay-Wood, who is headed to the University of Central Florida where she plans to major in business management and technical theater.
"It's going to be different," said class president Laura Seletos, noting that when it comes to writing her commencement speech she plans to act on the advice from her mom, Mitchell High English teacher Beth Seletos to keep it concise, humorous and inspirational.
"I'll have a connection to the school (Mitchell) so I'll be here from time to time," Laura continued. "But it's going to be a huge change of perspective. I think that will be refreshing."