The stereotype of today’s millennials, or those in Generation Z, is that they’re lazy and self-absorbed, with their faces always staring at their phones, oblivious to the world passing by around them.
As stereotypes tend to be, it’s not really a fair or universal assessment. Because teenagers like Sutton Amthor and Blake Boles defy such labels, and their existence should give people great hope for the future of our country.
Amthor, a three-time state qualifier in the pole vault and the valedictorian of Bruceville-Eddy’s senior class, and Boles, a four-sport athlete who graduated as McGregor’s valedictorian, reflect a selflessness and industriousness that any generation would envy. Amthor has a passion for literature and wants to be a writer someday. She’s much more likely to have her face poked inside the pages of a book – a real-life, paper copy — than on an iPhone or Android.
“When you see Sutton Amthor at the practice facility before practice, she’s reading a book, not looking at her phone,” said Jack Chapman, owner of the Texas Elite Pole Vault Club in Killeen and Amthor’s vaulting instructor for the past six years. “She’s very intelligent and articulate, passionate about reading. … She’s known all this time she wants to be a writer.”
Boles, meanwhile, has a great appreciation for technology, as he wants to major in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M. But he’s not interested in inventing the next million-dollar smart phone app – he wants to fight on the front lines of science so that he can save lives.
“I would like to do something with medicine,” Boles said. “My dad is a doctor and I’ve seen all the impact that he’s had, just on our community, through that. I also really like the engineering aspect, designing new technologies really interests me. … … I just want to have a job that’s really interesting and fulfilling, as far as trying to help as many people as I can with the things I design.”
It’s that type of service-minded passion that makes McGregor’s Boles and Bruceville-Eddy’s Amthor the ideal winners of the Scholar-Athletes of the Year on the Tribune-Herald’s annual Super Centex All-Academic Team.
As much as Amthor loves to read, everyone assumes she was reciting Dr. Seuss aloud at age 2. But she owns a bit of stubborn streak, and when her mother attempted to teach her to read during her early years, Sutton was having none of it.
But once she mastered that skill in kindergarten, she’d spend many an hour reading books as well as creating little fantasy worlds and scripts of her own.
“Ever since I was really little, my sister and I would just make up stories,” Amthor said. “We’d play with our Littlest Pet Shops, and we had one that always the villain. I don’t know why. He was always the villain. The rest of them would just have their cute little animal lives, and he would try and wreck them and we’d have to figure out how to save the day.”
But Amthor didn’t spend all her time cooped up inside. She stayed active with a variety of sports, including soccer, softball and basketball. As she got older, she realized she preferred a sport like track and field – which is far more individualized – than the team sports like basketball.
“In that environment I didn’t like all the pressure from, ‘OK, if I mess up, everyone is going to be mad at me and we’re going to lose,’” she said.
On the track, she felt magnetically attracted to the pole vault runway, even though Bruceville-Eddy’s coaches had limited knowledge of the event.
“I think it was just the uniqueness of it: ‘I want to do something that no one else is doing,’” Amthor said. “Because that’s the way I’ve always been. And also it just looks like a cool thing to do – flying through the air, sign me up.”
Sutton’s father Carey found Chapman’s pole vault club in Killeen, and soon she was head over heels in love with her new event.
“From the start, Sutton always had the look, the desire to put forth the effort to accomplish her goals,” Chapman said. “She sacrificed everything, sacrificed time with her friends, in order to get it done.”
Amthor cleared seven feet in her first junior high meet. She inched incrementally higher in subsequent meets, then hit a wall soon after reaching high school.
“Eventually I cleared 9-6, then everything stopped. I was just not getting higher heights,” Amthor said. “I was stuck at 9-6 probably for two years. I remember having meets where all I wanted to do was clear 10 feet, and I just could not do it. I remember crying about it. I’d been stuck at 9-6 for so long, and I was so frustrated.”
She was frustrated, but not defeated. Amthor eventually topped 10 feet, and didn’t stop there. In fact, the first time she cleared 11 feet – at a meet in Lorena, where she took a bronze medal instead of her usual gold – remains probably her favorite vaulting memory.
Like any good writer, Amthor knew how to script the perfect, climactic ending to her high school vaulting career. She admits that she’d often been rattled by nerves at the state meet in the past, too consumed with the idea of trying to win a state championship.
This year, she’d expanded her thinking. She wasn’t competing against the field, but rather herself.
And ultimately, she conquered, setting a new personal-best by soaring over 11-6. The height was tied for fourth among Class 3A’s top vaulters, though Amthor dropped to seventh when the tiebreaker (number of misses) was factored in.
No matter. She did what she set out to do. In that moment, she felt grateful for all the support she’d received over the years. From her father, the (literal) voice in her head, her chauffer on that hour-long drive to Killeen three times a week. From her mom Susan, a relentless encourager who introduced the notion that pole vaulting might be the easiest path to publishing.
“She’ll say, ‘Sutton, you just need to go to the Olympics and then no one will care if your book is good or not. They’ll publish it,’” Amthor said, laughing.
Amthor also praised the support of people like Chapman – “the best coach ever,” she said – and her junior English teacher, Mrs. (Vicki) Morgan.
She intends to keep vaulting in college, at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. She sought out the liberal arts school for its fine reputation for developing writers. She is simultaneously exhilarated and intimidated at the adventure that awaits.
“I’m excited, I’m also really scared,” said Amthor, a National Merit Commended Scholar whose final GPA topped 106. “After my first year, I’ll be OK. After my first few weeks, I’m sure I’ll be OK. But just that transition, I know, is going to be really, really difficult for me. The type of person I am, I don’t like change, but I’m also pretty adaptable after a while.
“I can make a home anywhere, but it just takes me a second to get to that point.”
Down the road at McGregor, Blake Boles never wanted to pigeonhole himself into one sport or activity. He tried a little bit of everything.
“I definitely did like having a bunch of sports going on,” said Boles, who participated in football, track, tennis and golf in high school. “I don’t particularly like playing one sport continuously. I never did select or full year, any sport. So I liked that change, and I liked introducing myself to different sports.”
When asked about how fierce a competitor he is, Boles sheepishly grins and cops to it. The guy likes to win. Nothing wrong with that. And once he reached junior high school, he realized that if he applied that same competitive zeal to his studies, he could win there, too.
“In junior high I started really trying to go for the top spot, because I realized that I could,” Boles said. “It was a possibility. Up until then I was just a kid, so I didn’t really think about it at all.”
Throughout high school, Boles’ report card was littered with nothing but A’s – and high ones at that. But he found plenty of competition in his graduating class at McGregor – 46 of the school’s 112 seniors carried a four-year average of 90 or better. In particular, Boles faced a battle for that valedictorian spot from his classmate and fellow athlete Mary Graves, who ended up as the salutatorian by mere percentage points.
Boles said it became a poker game of sorts when he and Graves would chat about their GPAs.
“Toward the end, it was like, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know, should I say?’ It was getting intense,” said Boles, who finished with a GPA of 107.78. “But at the same time, we’re really good friends, so it was all a good competition, keeping us both on our feet.”
Throughout his life, Boles has understood that the world is bigger than his little corner of Central Texas. His parents sought to take their family on an overseas mission trip every four years. So Blake has visited and served in Mexico, Ecuador, Kenya and Uganda, in addition taking several trips in the United States with his church in McGregor.
He said that his parents wanted their kids to experience the world firsthand, so they’d have a better understanding and appreciation for what service really looks like.
“Thinking back, if I had never been out of the country and had never seen any of that, I would definitely be a lot different of a person,” Boles said. “That really widens your understanding, for sure.”
2017 Super Centex All-Academic Team
Jordan White, China Spring: Academic all-state basketball player was a member of PALS and volunteered at a local horse ranch.
Hope Jenson, Clifton: Class salutatorian, senior class officer still found time to participate in volleyball and track and field, where she was a UIL state qualifier in the discus.
Haley Defriend, Groesbeck: Volleyball player, regional track qualifier earned academic all-state recognition and finished her high school run with 101.68 GPA.
Carly Campbell, Lorena: Super Centex basketball star, regional track qualifier was a member of NHS and Pals while accumulating a 101.4 grade point average.
Alanni Cooper, Mexia: When she wasn’t participating in volleyball, basketball or track, Mexia honor graduate was winning awards like VFW Voice of Democracy essay contest.
Mary Graves, McGregor: McGregor’s salutatorian with a 107.2 GPA was a first-team Super Centex basketball player, and served hundreds of hours through church and civic organizations.
Ashlynn Gorrell, Midway: An academic all-state honoree in both basketball and track, Gorrell excelled especially in science and hopes to pursue a nursing degree at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Beth Bounds, Moody: Moody valedictorian won state in powerlifting as well as recording impressive averages on softball diamond (.403 batting) and in classroom (98.87 GPA).
Natalie Hoelscher, Robinson: Hard-hitting catcher on Robinson’s softball team graduated with 4.0 GPA while donating time to charities like Salvation Army and Waco Challenger League.
Danielle Nors, West: Multi-time Super Centex softball star, former state champion also lit up academic radar gun with 101.211 grade point average.
Honorable mention: Kylie Johnson, Abbott; Kaylee Tucker, Axtell; Chelsea Connell, Bosqueville; Paige Tamez, Chilton; Dara Gamble, China Spring; Jacelyn Slagle, Clifton; Valeria Olvera, Cranfills Gap; Karlie Scott, Jennifer Andrews and Kennah Kennedy, Frost; Bailey Spivey and Brittney Flusche, Groesbeck; Nicole Winters and Aaliyah Brown, Hubbard; Zaida Soto-Toca and Shekenia Green, La Vega; Ashlyn Sorrells and Bailey Allison, Lorena; Sarah Heiner and Kylie Smith, McGregor; Kaci Gauntt, Mexia; Madison Wagner and Ashley Posey, Midway; Chassie Fisher and Kali Chatham, Moody; Valerie Alvarez, Morgan; Taylor Slagle and Reilly Jones, Reicher; Samantha Gray, Riesel; Kristen Green and Mallory McNew, Robinson; Katherine Higgins, Kinsey Persons and Kallie Brown, Teague; Kortlyn Henderson, University; Desiree Kuykendall, Waco High; Julia Wernet and Cassie Pavlas, West; Jessica Watson and Jasmine Heard, Whitney
Nathan Roach, Connally: Four-sport athlete stayed active in community, helping with Toys for Tots, My Brother’s Keeper and church youth group.
Caydyn Gillham, Hubbard: Texas A&M-bound student helped out in Hubbard food pantry, recorded 4.024 GPA and still had time to play six sports.
Zach Pierce, Lorena: Football team captain also played basketball and threw discus and was academic all-state in all three sports with a 100.55 GPA.
Colton Bennett, Mart: Panthers’ top-ranked senior was named school’s outstanding student in math, history, English and science while playing football, basketball and golf.
Peter Ferretter, Midway: Distance running-standout was regional qualifier in track and won a “Spirit of Midway” award for his volunteer work.
Chase Allison, Robinson: Star golfer, quarterback graduated with 99.3 GPA; was named “Mr. Robinson” of senior class.
Jacob Sames, Temple: Four-sport letterman tallied 104.8 GPA, tops in Temple senior class, and will start college with more than 50 hours of credit.
Evan Hickok, Vanguard: Maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average while lettering in three sports, plans to pursue biomedical engineering degree at Texas Tech.
Isaac Arterburn, Waco High: Four-year cross country letterman also competed in UIL academics, maintained 104.19 grade point average.
Honorable mention: Grahm Gonzalez, Bosqueville; Trevor Ernst and Clayton Caniford, Clifton; Kobe Hailey, Frost; Ellis Boyer, Chandler Boyd and Bradley Wilson, Groesbeck; Weston Nolan, Hamilton; Kade Crouch, Hillsboro; Ryan Hering and Coby Bess, McGregor; Bryce Hughes, Morgan; Will Routh and Wes Tandy, Midway; Hernan Arroyo, Moody; Connor Barnett, Robinson; Brandon Richey and Mylan Shed, Teague; Ethan Mitchell, Temple; Diego Salazar, University; Evan Mastin and Davis Boehm, Vanguard; Dylan Flores and Chris Garcia, Waco High; Cade Fleaher and Mo Matus, West; Noah Weigant, Whitney