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 email@example.com 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.