Laura Rhyner had some big shoes to fill on her way to becoming one of Kenai Central High School's six valedictorians.
Rhyner, who graduated Thursday with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, is the third member of her family to pass through Kenai without so much as a B+ on her record. Her sister Emily earned top honors in 1998, while sister Tessa followed in 2000.
According to the girls' parents, Tom and Mary Rhyner, their daughters were always eager to learn. However, they say they have no idea how they produced such intelligent daughters.
"That's what we wondered," Mary Rhyner said.
However, the secret to the girls' success may not be such a secret.
"We spent a lot of time volunteering in the schools. We read to them. They all learned to read at an early age," she said.
Laura, being the baby of the family, might have been expected to buckle under the pressure of having such successful sisters. But sister Emily claims the youngest daughter is also the brainiest.
"Laura's the smartest of the three," Emily said Wednesday, much to the disdain of Laura, whose brains are only matched by her modesty.
"No..." Laura protested meekly.
"Yeah, you ask either one of us (Emily or Tessa) ... she's the smartest," Emily said, herself a recent graduate of prestigious Notre Dame University.
Laura Rhyner showed those smarts not just in the classroom, but in extracurricular activities as well. She is a member of the National Honor Society, on the student council, and has participated in numerous academic competitions.
It will take plenty of smarts for her to succeed in her chosen field. She plans on heading to Chicago's Northwestern University next fall to study biomedical engineering.
Why such a challenging field?
"She's very analytical," her father said.
"I like math and science. I kinda wanted to go into engineering, but I like more biology-type fields," Laura said.
In addition to her academic success, the youngest Rhyner sister also competed on the basketball and volleyball teams during her high school career.
Mary Rhyner said her daughters rarely competed with one another, despite their gifts.
"We've just been so blessed. They never competed at all," she said. "They pretty much do everything on their own."
That includes becoming a Kenai valedictorian trio.
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