• Shannon Gibbs, right, is the Centennial High School valedictorian, and Kristie Huneycutt is the salutatorian of the Class of 2016.  |  Burleson Star/ANNA HEROD
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Class of 2016: Gibbs, Huneycutt worked hard for success

Late nights and early mornings – this is how Centennial High School’s valedictorian and salutatorian described their journeys to becoming the top-ranking graduates of the Class of 2016.

Shannon Gibbs and Kristie Huneycutt have claimed the top two spots in their class, respectively, since their freshman year. They've known one another since their days attending Bransom Elementary, and the pair said they are proud of themselves and each other.

“There were some points where we were secretly like, oh dang it, she did better than me on a test – in chemistry especially,” Gibbs said. “But sophomore year, that was the second time we found out we were one and two. And we kind of made an agreement that we weren’t going to make this a big deal. If she passed me, I was going to be really happy for her just because I think we’re both proud of each other and we’ve put in a lot of hard work together.”

Both students agreed that hard work and dedication was the key to securing their spots, as they noted that some students with nearly perfect SAT scores didn’t rank higher than them. Gibbs and Huneycutt believe it came down to who put in the most time and effort with their schoolwork.

Gibbs secured a congressional nomination and made it through the semifinals of the application process at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, but ultimately didn’t make it through the last round. However, she isn’t letting that stop her from pursuing her dream to join the military as a chemical engineer.

“I’m still going to do the core at Texas A&M and then I’ll go into the army after that,” Gibbs said. “My grandpa was a chemical engineering officer in the army and I really look up to him. I feel like we've really always gotten along and have the same mindset, so I’m kind of following in his footsteps and I want to make him proud.”

Huneycutt plans to attend Abilene Christian University, and sees her future in a field where she can apply her knowledge and skills in both math and science.

“I chose (ACU) because I wanted a Christian school and I really liked their nursing program,” she said. “It’s such a small, close-knit school and I just loved the atmosphere there and how everyone, even just people walking by, knew each other. I loved that about it.”

The salutatorian found her inspiration to become a nurse and anesthetist close to home.

“I wanted to go into the medical field because my dad was battling cancer this year, and so whenever he would be in the hospital, I just decided that that’s what I wanted to do and I wanted to help people like that,” Huneycutt said. “And then the anesthesia part kind of came from my love of math.”

Throughout high school, Gibbs served as captain on the varsity track team, played junior varsity soccer and served as a member of the National Honor Society, along with Huneycutt who was a Centennial Sparkler for two years and was an Ambassador.

During her four years of walking the halls of CHS, Gibbs has learned to prioritize and take time for herself when needed.

“I learned that sometimes you just have to take a break from all the stress and relax and breathe,” Gibbs said. “Some things are more important than others, like mental health is more important than getting an ‘A’ on your chemistry homework.”

As commencement nears and Huneycutt and Gibbs prepare their speeches, Huneycutt said she is trying to take in her last days as a high school student with appreciation.

“Especially since it’s the end, I’d probably say just valuing the time here is important, and taking each day at a time because it all ends so fast,” she said. “We’ll be counting down the days, but then once we get here it’s like, ‘oh no, I wish I would’ve took it slower.’”

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Shannon Gibbs, right, is the Centennial High School valedictorian, and Kristie Huneycutt is the salutatorian of the Class of 2016.  |  Burleson Star/ANNA HEROD