So much for the stereotype of the frail, asthmatic nerd graduating at the top of his class. In fact, if this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian at Sulphur Springs High School are any indication, the local school system has taken the concept of “student athlete” to new heights.
SSHS Principal John McCullough announced Thursday afternoon that Jake Russell is the 2008 valedictorian of the Class of 2009, while Brandon Harry is salutatorian.
Russell, the son of Glenn and Ellen Russell, will finish with a grade point average of 5.66. He is a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Council, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the High School Leadership Class. He plans to attend Texas A&M University to become a petroleum or mechanical engineer.
His father said Russell showed an interest in learning at a young age.
“Even before school started, he wanted to learn and wanted to read,” said Glenn Russell, manager of the Zurn plant in Commerce. “He couldn’t wait for school to start.”
“We’re really proud of him,” said Ellen Russell. “He worked hard for this. He’s very determined. He sets his own goals and follows through on them.”
Brandon Harry is the son of Tony and Danette Harry. He will graduate with a 5.60 GPA. Harry is the senior class vice president and president of the SSHS chapter of Business Professionals of America. He is also an officer in FCA and the Chess Club.
He plans to attend Dallas Baptist University, majoring in finance or advertising.
“These are two fine young men, without a doubt,” said McCullough. “We’re blessed to have two young men like this representing Sulphur Springs High School.”
Neither Russell or Harry said they’d set out specifically to finish at the top of their class.
“It just kind of happened,” said Russell.
“Once you get closer (to your senior year), you kind of think about it,” said Harry.
While Russell and Harry excel in the classroom, they’ve also demonstrated prowess on the playing fields of SSHS. Harry, for example, is a second baseman on the Wildcat baseball squad, while Russell was on the state champion Wildcat football team and also participated in power lifting.
Russell played offensive tackle and earned first team All-District and honorable mention All-State. As a powerlifter, he finished ninth in the state in his weight class.
He was also named to the Texas High School Coaches Association’s Academic All-State Football team, which recognizes student athletes based on grade point average, class rank and ACT or SAT scores. Russell was named to the Elite team, which represents the highest point total that can be achieved.
“They both participated in sports, they’ve been in academics, they’re high-character men — any father would love to have these guys as their sons,” McCullough said.
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