ZEPHYRHILLS — It's limbo time, out of school but not yet officially pronounced grown-ups by the administration. The responsibilities of college, the military and careers, though just around the corner, still seem far away.
What's a senior to do?
Zephyrhills High grads-to-be marked the wait time by reliving their preschool days. In the football stadium, in temperatures that had already passed 90 degrees by 11 a.m. Tuesday, they skidded down the giant water slide and scooted on their bellies across an inflatable toy that sprinkled water. On the field, others played tug of war and a variation of musical chairs that involved brightly colored plastic balls.
"It's our last chance to have a kid moment," said Molly Rasche, 18, wearing shorts and a bikini top covered in grass and dirt. "And we can be totally out of dress code."
A self-described "turnaround kid," Rasche said she had considered dropping out of school but that her friend, Chris Anderson, helped keep her on the right path.
"I stuck by her," said Anderson, 18. "I see the best in everyone that I can, and I give people a chance to prove themselves."
The last day for the Class of 2011 was May 18. But students returned Tuesday morning for a three-hour graduation rehearsal. Afterward, school officials treated them to the annual senior send-off, a rite of passage that helps antsy teens blow off steam in an appropriate way, as opposed to senior pranks, which are not. Principal Steve Van Gorden gave a stern warning against senior pranks in the May student newsletter.
While underclassmen took finals inside, the seniors ran around the field, sprayed each other with the hose, and gave each other sloppy wet hugs.
Among those sliding, hooping and hollering were the Yingling brothers, Casey and Codey, 18. Identical twins, are a pitching/catching duo of the Bulldog baseball team.
Casey is a pitcher, a right-hander who favors sliders over fastballs. Codey calls the pitches.
They transferred from Pasco High, so they could get more playing time.
Going to a new school was difficult at first, but "that's where having a twin comes in handy," said Codey.
The brothers have had their fun. On Twin Day during homecoming week, they swapped identities and went to each other's classes.
"The teachers didn't know, but the kids did," Casey said.
The twins, the first men in their family to go to college, plan to attend Southeastern University in Lakeland.
They aren't sure what they'll study yet, but Casey wants to pursue baseball for as long as he can.
Codey once considered attending a Bible college in Argentina.
"I just want to end up where the good Lord sends me," he said.
For the senior sponsors who had worked with the class since they started ninth grade, Tuesday was a bittersweet day. They watched the students evolve from frivolous freshmen to serious seniors.
"I've seen them in Halloween costumes, raggedy clothes, camouflage," said Anna Jenkins, whose daughter, Jacqueline, is graduating after growing up accompanying her mom to faculty meetings.
"I still see them as little even though they are big," Jenkins said as she watched the wet teens chase each other. "But they're still little on the inside."