ANGOLA — Prairie Heights High School and Angola High School have one big thing in common this year: their valedictorians are cousins.
Angola’s Allyson Ditmars and Prairie Heights’s Haylee Henderson are the daughters of sisters Mary Ditmars and Rae Henderson, who come from the Lepley family.
Mary married Allyson’s father, Eric Ditmars, and Rae married Haylee’s father, James Henderson.
Allyson and Haylee have been good friends ever since they were little. After all, the two are only a month apart in age. Allyson was born on July 10, 2002, and Haylee followed soon after on August 9.
“They would be on the couch talking, and nobody else mattered,” Mary said.
The girls played sports together when they were little, but when high school approached, they found themselves on opposing sides. They both briefly played junior varsity softball during their freshman years and faced off once during that season.
Even though Prairie Heights came out the winner, Allyson has never had anything but appreciation for her cousin.
“She has a good work ethic and doesn’t get stressed out easy,” she said. “She does all these things and still has a social life.”
Haylee, however, thinks Allyson is the one to be admired for her efforts.
“She’s straightforward and tells me how things are,” she said. “She’s not afraid to relax, but she always works out even when she doesn’t have to. She goes to the YMCA like every morning.”
Even though they attended different schools, the girls have kept in close touch, teasing about their mothers and going on summer trips together with family.
Haylee said she will never forget when they went kayaking together with Rae and Mary last summer on Pigeon River. She had to save Mary from tipping over into the river by dragging her onto a log.
“She kept saying, ‘I almost died’ afterwards,” Haylee recounted with a good-natured laugh.
This fall, the girls will go their separate ways for college. Allyson plans to study pharmacy at Butler University and Haylee plans to pursue biomedical engineering at Purdue University.
Their studies will, understandably, keep them both busy, but since the universities are only about an hour away from each other, the girls can easily make visits.
Allyson and Haylee are both happy to know that they will be able to keep a piece of home with them as they begin this new chapter.
As Rae and Mary put it: “They’ll always have a best friend in their back pockets.”