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Soon-to-be Greenwood grads still in race for class’s top spot


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One of Greenwood High School's top two students, John Irons who will attend Purdue University and study Aerospace engineering. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
One of Greenwood High School's top two students, John Irons who will attend Purdue University and study Aerospace engineering. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

One of Greenwood Community High School's top two students, Austin Montgomery, will attend West Point and study systems engineering in the fall. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
One of Greenwood Community High School's top two students, Austin Montgomery, will attend West Point and study systems engineering in the fall. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal


The top two students at Greenwood Community High School won’t know until just before they graduate who has the highest grade-point average, but that isn’t their top concern.

Seniors John Irons and Austin Montgomery have spent the past four years taking advanced, college-level courses, often alongside each other. Montgomery had the highest grade-point average in the high school until last year, and right now Irons has a slight edge.

The students are waiting for their final grades, and whoever has the higher GPA by the end of the week will be their class’s valedictorian, while the other will be named salutatorian.

Montgomery, who will attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, has been working to attain the high school’s top spot since he was in middle school. He’s a competitive person and still wants to achieve that goal, but he also knows there will be more to compete for after graduation.

“We’re both going to do good things after high school,” Montgomery said. “It’d be cool to me to be No. 1, but if I’m going to lose it to someone, John’s a good guy. So I’m not really worried about it either way.”

Irons, who will attend Purdue University after he graduates to study aerospace engineering, is also more focused on life after graduation than he is on his GPA.

“Personally, I don’t really care,” he said. “After this year, you won’t ever think of it again. In the long run, it’s just something really tiny.”

Irons and Montgomery both started taking college-level courses early in high school.

Greenwood offers primarily dual-credit courses, which aren’t as widely accepted at colleges and universities across the country as Advanced Placement courses, and won’t earn Montgomery any college credits from West Point. But both students wanted to take courses that would prepare them for what they’d have to take in college.

“I wasn’t going to get anything out of a regular course anyway, so they definitely helped me push myself and learn more,” Montgomery said.

One of the most useful courses for both Irons and Montgomery was an advanced science research course, where a small group of students worked on their own to identify science projects, conduct experiments and then write and present the results.

Two of Montgomery’s experiments included tracking the effects of nicotine on the memory, and then tracking the effects of adrenaline on the memory. Gaining the experience of conducting an experiment and then publicly presenting the results will prepare him for the kind of work he’ll be expected to do in college, he said.

Irons, who has always been interested in flying, built two rockets in the science course and then tried to create rocket fuel to propel them.

Unfortunately the fuel doesn’t work — at least not yet. So part of his experiment was to find out what went wrong.

Irons may work with a friend over the summer to create a new kind of fuel that will launch the two rockets, which he’s named Ostrich and Pelican after flightless birds.

“That part did not work out as well as it was supposed to,” Irons said. “So we just have two rockets sitting in the back room upstairs. It happens.”

The Irons file

Name: John M. Irons

Age: 18

School: Greenwood Community High School

GPA: 4.63

Parents: John and Paula Irons

College: Purdue University

Major: Aerospace engineering

Future career: Undecided

The Montgomery file

Name: Austin Montgomery

Age: 18

School: Greenwood Community High School

GPA: 4.61

Parents: Doug and Johnna Montgomery

College: U.S. Military Academy at West Point

Major: Systems engineering

Career: Will spend five years on active duty with the Army, followed by three years in the reserves

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