FHS val, sal: We’ve had a fierce rivalry

Published 12:01 am Saturday, May 26, 2012


And then there were two.

Florala valedictorian Paige Irwin, salutatorian Mariah Thompson and fellow classmate Hunter Oswald have always been close friends and fierce academic rivals.

When the news came that Irwin and Thompson earned the school’s top academic honor, both said they felt a huge sense of relief.

“In the eighth grade, (Oswald) got highest average over me, and that didn’t sit well,” Irwin said. “That’s when I said I’m going to get valedictorian.”

Thompson said the competition among the trio helped make her a better student, propelling her to a 3.9 GPA to Irwin’s 4.0.

“School has pretty much always been my thing,” Thompson said. “I like the competition. Every day I would ask, ‘What did you get?’ when we had a test, and then I’d compare it to what I did.

“I never thought I would get salutatorian,” she said. I thought for sure it would be (Irwin), (Oswald) then me. I was scared when they told us.”

Now, those feelings of fear are gone and the two young women are brimming with excitement for the future.

Irwin, the daughter of Kevin and Tracy Irwin, earned a number of high school honors, including president of both the Student Government Association and Beta Club, being named homecoming queen and awards in many state art competitions. She plans to attend the University of West Alabama, to pursue a degree in mathematics. Her goal is to become a math teacher, and one day, a girls’ basketball coach.

Thompson, the daughter of Fontella Thompson, served as a member of the Beta Club and Mu Alpha Theta and People-to-People ambassador. She, too, plans to attend the University of West Alabama to pursue her dream of becoming a pharmacist.