Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Education

Top twins: Jake and John Wahl finish No. 1 and No. 2 among Bishop McLaughlin grads

SPRING HILL

Neck and neck is a road most traveled for Jake and John Wahl, 17, a somewhat reserved yet affable set of identical twins who are gracious about fielding the typical questions that people ask them.

• Who was born first? John, by 15 seconds.

• How do people tell you apart? There are subtle differences, but the color-coded sneakers help.

• Do you ever swap identities? They've been known to pull a fast one — maybe on a teacher passing back tests so they can be the first to see each other's score.

• Are you competitive? Absolutely.

So much so that more than a few folks were seeing double when John and Jake, of New Port Richey, took the podium to deliver their speeches as salutatorian and valedictorian, respectively, at Tuesday evening's graduation at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High.

"Carbon copies," the older folks might say.

Separated by a mere .03 weighted grade-point average — 4.42 for Jake and 4.39 for John — in a class of 47 graduates.

"They've always been competitive when it comes to school and sports," said classmate Katelyn Butler, 18, an equally driven student who's been dubbed the "third musketeer" since the three met in elementary school.

"They've lived their whole lives that way," said the twins' mom, Debra Wahl.

Even when they were tiny, premature babies, it was a usually a dead heat.

"One would gain a pound, then the other would gain a pound. It was hard to tell them apart," said Mrs. Wahl, who kept their hospital bracelets on as long as she could, then started a habit of dressing John in blue and Jake in red.

The two have been constant classmates through most of their school days, opting for similar paths academically and in sports. Both went out for the high school track team, then opted for cross country. Both played defense on traveling and school soccer teams, where confused teammates and coaches got to calling them "twin" instead of their given names.

Even so, "they are distinct individuals," said world language teacher and longtime family friend Sandra Wesdock.

"They know better than to try (switching identities) on me," Wesdock said, noting nuances she has picked up on — one twin is slightly taller than the other (Jake), and they have slightly different-shaped faces. Jake is more serious; John is more outgoing.

When it comes to goals, they're on the same wavelength.

Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High does not post class rankings until the end of students' senior year, but the Wahl brothers got word last year that they were among five students in the running for class valedictorian.

They decided there would be no slacking off — no senior slump.

"We knew we were close, and that was more of a motivator," Jake said. "It meant you had to keep at it, do your best."

While a tie would have been optimal, the one-two honor has a pretty good feel.

"It would have been bad if one of us didn't get it," Jake said.

The twins plan to follow their two older sisters to Florida State University, fueling a good-natured "house divided — Gator/Seminoles" rivalry with step-siblings who attend the University of Florida.

UF would have been a fine choice, John said, but the honors program at Florida State offered "the best opportunities for research."

Jake and John plan to study biology, with thoughts of going into research or perhaps a pre-med trek, following in the footsteps of their father, Dr. Michael Wahl, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

"We've gone to the hospital for rounds with our dad," Jake said, adding that a field trip to Tampa General Hospital pretty much sealed the deal for their future plans.

While they might find themselves in some of the same classes this fall at FSU, the twins won't be rooming together.

"They don't want that, and I won't allow that," said their mom. "I'm just happy that they can be together in a large school where they have the ability to separate but aren't far from each other, because they really do depend on each other."

And they will continue to push each other, according to John, who laid down the gauntlet during his salutatory speech.

"Yes, I did lose the GPA race to Jake," he said. "I will receive a rematch in college."

Michele Miller can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6251. Follow @MicheleMiller52.

     
Comments
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18