Melissa Ellgen was pretty sure she had it in the bag.
As one of six Moffat County High School seniors to graduate with a 4.0 grade point average today, she said she's taken her last few months lightly.
"I slacked off this semester, so I'm happy that it pulled through," Ellgen said.
The other valedictorians are Heather Brown, Katie Knez, Kaleb McKey, Vanessa Murray and Mark Oxley. The salutatorian is Emily Krogman.
Each valedictorian received an A in all of his or her high school and dual credit classes during the past four years.
"What's special about these six students is that they have kept working," high school counselor Paula Duzik said. "They haven't given up. They can see the whole picture."
Of the traits necessary to be academically successful, Duzik said these six have organizational skills, perseverance and independence.
"I think it takes drive and also thinking for yourself," Duzik said.
For some of the top six, their fate rested in a final essay or test they passed this week. Now that the students are certain they're graduating with a perfect GPA, they expressed relief.
"It takes the pressure off," Murray said. "No more stress."
But to truly keep the pressure off, Murray said she'd keep up with schoolwork by completing homework in class or reading during lunch.
"Stay on top of your work," Murray advised other students. "You don't really need to do a lot of extra (work), just stay on top of it."
Brown said while the students' good grades show they have a commitment to school, it doesn't necessarily make them smarter than anyone else in their class.
"It shows that we work hard," Brown said. "It shows that we have work ethic."
And now that they're done with homework, tests and papers, how do they feel about graduating high school and moving on with their lives?
"It still hasn't sunk in," Murray said.
Ellgen said she thinks it'll feel real at commencement today.
But Brown said she needs a summer to realize what's happening next for her.
"I think it'll sink in when I go to my first college class in the fall," she said.
Brown will attend Fort Lewis College; Ellgen, Brigham Young University-Idaho; Knez, Regis University; McKey, Colorado State University; Murray, Montana State University; and Oxley, University of Wyoming.
Michelle Perry can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or firstname.lastname@example.org.