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River Ridge seniors reflect on achievements as goals beckon

From left, seniors Brittny Buckner, Olivia Olin and Lindsey Sansonetti, all 18, sign yearbooks and talk after graduation practice Tuesday morning at River Ridge High School. Members of the Class of 2010 will be receiving their diplomas Friday night.


From left, seniors Brittny Buckner, Olivia Olin and Lindsey Sansonetti, all 18, sign yearbooks and talk after graduation practice Tuesday morning at River Ridge High School. Members of the Class of 2010 will be receiving their diplomas Friday night.

NEW PORT RICHEY — When your last name comes at the end of the alphabet, you get used to waiting. Graduation practice on Tuesday morning was no different for River Ridge seniors Rachel Zerka and Travis Zurfluh.

The two had made it into the gymnasium before the doors shut at 8 a.m., locking out the late-comers. Now, some 21/2 hours later, they waited for the last row — their row — to be called up for the first run-through. From A to Z, the Class of 2010 would have to stand in line and make their way across the stage. They'd practice handshake and hold up blank pieces of paper — the stand-in for a diploma — while posing for an imaginary photographer.

Then they'd be back to practice it again the next day.

"It's not so bad, but we've got to keep ourselves awake," Rachel said with a laugh. "Everyone's just sending these random text messages all over the place."

"The pace is slow-going, but that's the nature of it," co-valedictorian Christopher McBride said.

The idea of graduation practice, after all, is to make everything perfect come Friday night. No bouncing beach balls. No bull horns. No drowning out the calling of someone else's name during the senior roll call.

"They're dumbing it down some, but it's just common sense," said Olivia Olin, who was busy signing yearbooks with friends Brittny Buckner and Lindsey Sansonetti. "You don't want to ruin someone's big moment."

Friday night will be the last big dance for the Class of 2010. But there have been some pretty good moments leading up to that.

Among their touted achievements: one National Merit Scholar finalist and one National Merit Commended Student; two graduates heading to the Air Force Academy on a full ride; 157 honor graduates and 24 Florida Academic Scholar recipients. And finally, the big claim to fame: The Class of 2010 won the Homecoming Spirit award for the past four years.

No class has ever done that before, noted senior class president Will Sexauer.

"We won Homecoming in our freshman year. We were shocked that we won it," he said. "But after that, our goal was to win it every year. This year we just crushed them."

There have been other special moments for individual graduates.

Playing at Friday night football games and marching at halftime in the school band was the highlight for clarinet and flute player Aaron Cabrera.

Josh Cole said he really enjoyed the challenge of competing against other great minds in the district Brain Bowl.

Taking dual-enrollment classes at Pasco-Hernando Community College, raising money for "Relay for Life" and judging various local elementary and middle school science fairs was what Johnathan Nugent and salutatorian Tashyana Plantilla will likely remember most.

For Student Council president Anna Lisa Armitage, it was performing with the school dance team for all four years.

"I've been dancing since forever," Anna Lisa said. "So having the opportunity to do it in high school was great."

Katie Sweeney and Katie Fiorillo ranked their years spent competing in Odyssey of the Mind as their best memory — especially since they landed a fifth-place finish a couple of weeks ago in the World Finals. That's the highest honor any River Ridge team has gotten.

"We had so much fun," Katie Fiorillo said. "It was the best way to end senior year."

Michele Miller can be reached at or (727) 869-6251.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: The River Ridge 2010 graduating class had 157 honor graduates and 24 Florida Academic Scholar recipients. The original version of this article gave an incorrect number of honor grads.

Fast facts

River Ridge High School Class of 2010

River Ridge High School's graduation will be at 6 p.m. Friday at the school.

Projected graduates: 360

Co-valedictorians: Christopher McBride and Derek Wasilewski

Salutatorian: Tashyana Plantilla

Class president: Will Sexauer

National Merit Scholar: Joshua Cole

National Merit Commended Student and Outstanding Senior: Katelyn Sweeney

Academic highlights

• River Ridge Odyssey of the Mind team placed fifth in world competition. Team members were Katie Fiorillo, Katie Sweeney, Devon Faria, Alex Horvath and Debra Sparr.

• Christopher McBride and Sergio Sierra earned full scholarships to the Air Force Academy.

• District PRIDE winners: Anna Lisa Armitage (social studies) and Aaron Cabrera (performing arts).

• Thespian Micah Laird won best in district for ensemble acting with two underclassmen.

• Justin First, Moriah Holt, Lauren Larzelere and Wesley Vause won first place in the district media competition.

• The Royal Knights marching band earned straight superiors in FBLA evaluation.

Athletic highlights

• The softball team had a 23-5 record and went to the first round of the playoffs.

• Landon Vannata placed fifth in the state in wrestling.

• Natalie Marenghi was second in the state in weight lifting, was conference champ for three years and is going to be on the Florida State University cheerleading squad.

• Heather White was awarded an athletic scholarship for soccer to Columbia College in South Carolina.

• Danielle Levy was awarded a gymnastics scholarship to Michigan State University.

• Madison Morris will play softball for St. Petersburg College.

• Mikaela Morolla was conference and district champion in pole vaulting.

• Arielle O'Brien was on the second all-conference team for the 200-meter dash in track. She was the district runner-up in this event.

River Ridge seniors reflect on achievements as goals beckon 06/01/10 [Last modified: Thursday, June 3, 2010 11:08am]
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