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Co-valedictorian cousins share academic spotlight at graduation

Park Rapids Area High School graduates Lindsey Girtz, left, and Nikki Eischens are cousins and will share the stage Sunday as co-valedictorians.

Hollywood has long featured intriguing female duos - in comedy and drama alike – chronicling their escapades.  Sunday, cousins and cohorts Lindsey Girtz and Nikki Eischens will take the stage as co-valedictorians, sharing their adventures as Park Rapids students.  “It will be a conversation between the two of us,” Lindsey said of the co-written discourse.  Their co-classroom history began in kindergarten, but they would not reunite until the eighth grade, their academic talents complementary.  They share the same ACT score - to the decimal.  “We do everything together, but we’re opposites,” said Lindsey, of proficiencies in English and math.  

They received kudos this week at the scholarship program as having been the only two students to earn straight As in social studies throughout high school.  “We always worked well together,” Lindsey said.  “It just clicks,” Nikki agrees. “We have different habits, but it works. She’s definitely a big motivator.”  “If Nikki hadn’t been in the same grade, we wouldn’t be giving this speech,” Lindsey said of Nikki’s Aug. 30 birthday that nearly separated them to two grades.  Competition has not been in the mix. At the end of their sophomore year, Nikki had a low A- in Spanish. “I was super nervous,” she said of missing the top tier.  Meanwhile, her cousin had “checked it out,” learning Nikki had made the grade.  “She ran to me and picked me up and spun me around,” Nikki recalled.  “We’re in it together,” Nikki said.  Dressed as two characters from the movie “Up” they earned first in this year’s Halloween contest. They were dubbed “best friends” in the Senior Hall of Fame.   Lindsey earned Student of the Month in October, with grandparents Ron and Judy Girtz predicting Nikki to be next.  They were correct; Nikki was Student of the Month in November.  “The whole family thinks it’s awesome,” Nikki said.  After graduation, they move on to a co-graduation party, a picnic in the park.  But when autumn arrives, they will go separate ways, Nikki to the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and Lindsey to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  “We mapped it out,” Lindsey said. “We’re two hours and 19 minutes apart by shuttle.”  Both will major in biology.  “All I know is I wouldn’t want to be on that podium with anyone else,” Lindsey said.  “I’m so glad she’s by my side,” Nikki agreed.