LAKE PLACID — Lake Placid High School has named Ellen Lansing this year’s valedictorian, and Tristan Spotts has earned the spot of salutatorian.
Lansing, 17, is a three-sport athlete competing in cross country running, track and field, and figure skating. She’s the president of the high school’s environmental club, secretary of the National Honor Society and the senior class fundraising chair. Lansing plans to attend Columbia University in New York City in the fall, majoring in environmental science.
Spotts, 17, is also a three-sport athlete, competing in hockey, tennis and soccer. He’s the senior class president, and he’s a member of the National Honor Society and the Key Club. Spotts plans to attend the University of Buffalo in the fall to major in psychology.
People don’t just become valedictorian and salutatorian on a whim; getting consistently good grades takes a strong work ethic and planning for assignment deadlines and upcoming test dates. That’s what you’d think, anyway. For Lansing and Spotts, getting good grades is more a matter of competition.
Ever since middle school, Lansing said, she and Spotts have faced off on the academic playing field.
“What’d you get on the test? What’d you get on the essay? What was your average this quarter?” Lansing said Monday, texting Spotts on an imaginary phone in an impression of herself.
Lansing and Spotts weren’t the only ones who were competitive with their grades, though — most of their class was, they said. Lansing said it surprised their guidance counselor how open students were about their grades.
“Usually people are more, like, secretive,” Lansing said. “Our class is like, ‘I GOT THIS. WHAT’D YOU GET?’”
When it comes to individual study tips, Lansing and Spotts — like true academic athletes — thrive more on adrenaline than pacing themselves.
“We both procrastinate,” Spotts said.
“Yeah, really bad,” Lansing agreed.
“Late nights,” Spotts added.
“Adrenaline. Pressure. Grind,” Lansing said.
Lansing and Spotts said they don’t spend a lot of time studying regularly. They hesitantly agreed that they’re naturally good at retaining information. Both said that taking notes in class — whether they look back on the notes or not — helps them to internalize a lecture.
The high school experience
Lansing and Spotts said it feels good to have earned the titles of valedictorian and salutatorian because it feels like their hard work has paid off. But, they said, high school isn’t all about the grades.
“You can still have fun in high school and get good grades,” Lansing said.
Lansing said that it might sound like she and Spotts are so involved in sports and extracurriculars that they don’t have free time, but she said they find a “balance.”
High school is what you make of it, Spotts said. He said there’s always time to do your homework, but sometimes you end up prioritizing other things.
“And I think you need to do that,” he said. Otherwise, the other parts of your life could fall to the wayside.
High school wasn’t just studying and homework for Lansing and Spotts. It was also about friends, half-full Starbucks coffees left in lockers, the drawer full of smashed Red Bull cans in physics teacher Frank Brunner’s desk — all the quirks and extras.
Despite pandemic-related disruptions throughout their time in high school, Lansing and Spotts agreed that they had a “medium-normal” high school experience with highs and lows.
“Like everything in life, though,” Spotts said.
Life after Lake Placid
Both Lansing and Spotts are leaving the village of Lake Placid for college this fall. It’ll be the first time they’ve moved away from their hometown. They had the same word for how the future makes them feel.
“Excited,” Lansing and Spotts said, grinning.
Spotts thinks Lake Placid is beautiful, but he said a change of scenery would be nice. He’s looking forward to living in a place with more diversity, and Lansing is too.
“It’s a bit of a bubble up here,” Lansing said, and she’s looking forward to experiencing a different environment in New York City.
For Spotts and Lansing, moving out of Lake Placid also means moving on from high school.
“I hope we don’t peak in high school,” Lansing said.
“That’s my nightmare,” Spotts agreed.
Spotts said it’s important to remember that life goes on after high school ends.
“You have a whole life after it,” Spotts said, “and not everyone in the world is like everyone in Lake Placid.”