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Lucky 13: Sierra High graduates 438 seniors
Sierra High graduate Chris Choate celebrates one last time on the field during Friday’s Sierra High graduation. - photo by HIME ROMERO
Sierra High School’s 13th and largest graduating class of 438 was fortunate to avoid the rain Friday.

Instead, silver clouds fittingly surrounded a patch of blue above Daniel Teicheira Memorial Stadium, mirroring the silver and blue gowns that checkered the infield.

The change in weather patterns was good for the exiting group of Timberwolves, and change, as senior class president Madison Andermahr insisted, is good.

“This morning we were students. Tonight, we become graduates,” she said. “What exciting changes we are about to experience.”

Andermahr’s welcoming speech, which followed a stirring acapella rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” by senior classmates Dawn Kilpatrick and Cristina Westover, touched on the support of her mother, who cried and “clicked” her camera during her first days of school.
“I have to say it was a little embarrassing once I got to high school. And now, my mom is here tonight for my last day of high school. I’m sure she’s crying, but I’m sure if I listen hard enough I will hear her camera — ‘click, click, click.’ Thank you mom for always being there for all my first days,” Andermahr said before a teary pause.

Andermahr also highlighted the school’s athletic achievements of the past year.

She was a part of the three-time Valley Oak League champion girls swimming team. She also gave a shout out to the football team that qualified to its first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section playoff run, the girls soccer team that went undefeated in league and the boys golf team that claimed the program’s first championship.

“This is also the fourth consecutive year that Sierra High School won more team championships than any other school in the district,” Andermahr said. “Hopefully, these things will never change.”

Class valedictorian Madison Taylor, headed to Brigham Young University — Hawaii, used a movie theme in her address, saying, “This has only been Scene 1, and there is much more storyline ahead,” she said.

She later said in closing, “We are each the author, the actor, the director and the producer of our own stories. It’s your life, starring you.”

Salutatorian Marena Rankin, the self-described “second smartest nerd on campus,” provided comic relief despite declaring that she is “no comedian.”  She advised her classmates that “now is the good time to ask for money” from parents and later recalled “sneaking fugitives — our friends — off campus through the border to get some Taco Bell” during lunchtime periods.

Manteca Unified district superintendent Jason Messer officially presented Taylor and Rankin as Sierra’s 2009 valedictorian and salutatorian. Miriam Baccus sang “Whenever you Remember” between speeches.

First-year principal Susan Pearson recognized retiring teachers Katherine Greenwood and Debby Becker and office staff members Marsha Chapman and Mary Ann Nord. Larry Grimes presented 30 seniors that earned California Scholarship Federation Awards.

Daniel Dolieslager and Stephan Unterholzner announced the graduates’ names. School board members Evelyn Moore, Nancy Teicheira and John McKillip awarded diplomas.