Heads of class

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Heads of class
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Forget cramming for tests, spending hours poring through homework and late nights at the library. A few hours on the golf course could be the key to academic success just ask Eric Fries.
    
When the 17-year-old wasnt hitting the books en route to becoming the T.C. Williams class of 2011s valedictorian, he was hitting balls on the links. Theres nothing like a good round to clear the head, he said.  
    
I really enjoy how you can just go out on the course and on a quiet day when no one is there, not see anyone for four hours and just play, Fries said. You clear your thoughts of everything but golf. It relieves a lot of the other pressures you might be feeling.
    
When the rising University of Virginia freshman wasnt working on his swing, Fries kept busy with schoolwork. While he downplays the energy put into his studies, the achievement didnt come easy. 
    
And he learned a few life lessons along the way, like time management.
    
Sometimes you go to bed and you remember [you] forgot this homework and you have to get back up and do it, Fries said. There was one day in 10th grade, I kind of procrastinated on an assignment until the end figuring it was a real easy assignment and started at 11 p.m. and ended up working until 4 a.m. That wasnt a good choice.
    
That was the year Fries decided he had a shot at earning the title of valedictorian. He credits his parents with keeping him motivated, but the honor came as a welcome surprise, even to them. 
    
He had told me he was near the top of his class, but we found out for certain last Monday at the [senior awards ceremony], said Maile, Fries mother. We hadnt really focused on his grades that much. We encouraged him to go and take the hard classes and learn as much as he can and whatever comes out of it, comes out of it. We never focused on him having the best grades.

Heller leads St. Stephens and St. Agnes
    
Discipline and determination: you need both to end up at the top of your class, according to St. Stephens and St. Agnes valedictorian Mathias Heller. 
    
I think all high schoolers have days where we are facing a mountain of homework and it can be tempting to think, whats the purpose of all of this and just blow it off, Heller said. What really is imperative is taking a long-term view and realizing how important all of the work you do on a daily basis is to your success in the future, whether it be in college or in general teaching yourself self-discipline. It was not easy at times to stay focused.
    
Even so, Heller, headed for Brown University in the fall, didnt know he was in line to take the annual honor. He wasnt the only member of the class of 2011 more likely to hit the books than not.
    
I was definitely humbled by the [title], Heller said. 

Swiger elected to speak at graduation
    
Years of participation in student government, afterschool clubs and athletics put Bishop Ireton senior Allie Swiger in the running for valedictorian, but the announcement still came as a welcome surprise.
    
Ireton awards the title of valedictorian not to the top of the class, like other schools, but rather lets students and teachers elect their graduation speaker.
    
It was a total shock, Swiger said, recalling the moment administrators told her to start writing a commencement speech. At first they just sent us into the principals office and told us there. I was definitely very nervous I didnt know what was going on and then I was very honored.
    
Swiger, who will attend the College of William and Mary in the fall, stressed the importance of the Alexandria high school in her graduation speech. No matter where they go, Ireton will always be a part of each of the graduates. 
    
Ireton was a great place to grow as a person and grow as a class, Swiger said. Our class exemplified unity perfectly.

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