Park High School's co-valedictorians: A couple at the top and looking ahead
Kyle Gross and Melissa Crawford knew they were neck and neck in the academic race to the top of Park High School's senior class.
But how about a finish separated by one one-thousandth of a point?
"It was super close," said Gross, whose 4.3311 grade point average was narrowly edged by Crawford's 4.3322.
Their GPAs were so close, in fact, that Park administrators named Crawford and Gross this year's co-valedictorians.
The good-natured academic competition was made more interesting by the fact that Crawford and Gross are not just classmates - they have been dating for over a year. They were happy they finished 1 and 2 in their class and will deliver the student commencement speech together.
"It's definitely cool to be at the top," Crawford said.
They earned their high GPAs by loading their schedules with advanced placement courses and an International Baccalaureate math class. They took courses with weighted grades and did well.
Their positions - Crawford as No. 1 in the class, Gross as No. 2 - were not settled until the final trimester. Gross actually had a higher GPA after the second trimester this year, but said he received an A- and a B+. Crawford's grades were slightly better, putting her on top in the end.
"Other people remind me of it more than her," Gross said, smiling. "She's nice about it."
Gross said one of his personal goals was to finish at the top of his senior class. His sister was a co-valedictorian at Park.
"After I saw her get that I was really inspired to see how high I could go," he said.
A key to their academic success is time management, they said. Crawford said she used as much class time as possible to finish homework assignments, and typically stayed up until 11:30 p.m. because of extracurricular activities and schoolwork. Gross said he is a morning person and did not mind waking early to finish his class assignments.
"Sometimes I don't know how I get everything done," Crawford admitted.
They stay busy outside of class, too. Gross participated in Park's spring musical this year; it was his first theater experience and he said he enjoyed it. Crawford was captain of Park's dance team.
They share an interest in competitive dance, practicing jazz, tap and other forms. But they dance for different local studios.
"That'd be a lot of time to see her," Gross joked when asked why they don't dance together. Dance practice takes about 12 hours a week.
Crawford and Gross, both age 18, have been friends since the third grade. They have been dating for over a year and said their relationship helps them excel in school. They support one another.
"We just look out for each other's best interest," Gross said.
The couple are headed to the University of Minnesota's Twin Cities campus, but have separate academic tracts. Crawford will enter the U of M's College of Biological Sciences with plans on pursuing a pre-medical school path. She is undecided on a career.
"I'm ready for school to be done but I'm kind of scared for college because I don't know what to expect," she said.
Gross will study business in a four-year program at the U of M's Carlson School of Management.
"I want to work at a Fortune 500 company based in Minnesota," he said, citing General Mills and other food companies.
Gross said he looks forward to new challenges.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm ready to move on. I feel like Park did a good job preparing me."