HINCKLEY – The only thing preventing Hinckley-Big Rock High School senior Andy VanLanduyt from accepting his diploma were the five steps to the stage.
VanLanduyt had surgery to repair his ACL on Thursday, which he tore for a second time in April four months after tearing it the first time in December. The school honored the basketball, baseball and soccer player with an award for being the top male athlete.
"It was my only goal: To be able to walk on graduation," he said with a crutch under his arm.
VanLanduyt was among 42 students who graduated Sunday from Hinckley-Big Rock High School, 700 E. Lincoln Ave., Hinckley. The ceremony included remarks from Principal Jay Brickman, valedictorian Caitlin Flanigan and salutatorian Kimberly Weissinger.
The school also recognized senior Brandon Jakubiec, who plans to join the U.S. Army while the rest of his classmates pursue different goals.
Many of the speeches touched on the tight-knit community of Hinckley. Flanigan referred to an example of a teacher driving to Subway to hand a student missed homework. She also said she could probably name not only every student in her senior class, but their parents, siblings and possibly even the name of their dog.
"We've grown up surrounded by people who care about us and want us to succeed," Flanigan said.
Brickman is one of those people. His speech focused on the inventions created during the Class of 2014's time at Hinckley-Big Rock, including the inception of 3D TV and the iPad.
Brickman encouraged graduates with three words: goodness, optimism and sincerity. He hoped those three words would bring them a lifetime of joy, he said.
"It will truly be a brave new world, and you will be our new leaders," he said.
Weissinger, who was one of 13 seniors in the National Honor Society, likened her classmates to her siblings.
"I couldn't be luckier than to be in a small class with all of you," Weissinger said.
Superintendent Travis McGuire reminded the class to thank their friends and family for supporting them and helping them develop into adults.
"They'll be at your side whether you succeed or fail," he said.
McGuire also told the graduates to never let failure defeat them, inspiring them to persevere and grow.
VanLanduyt knows all about perseverance. Even after all of his injuries, he still never missed a basketball, baseball or soccer practice, cheering on his teammates from the sidelines.
VanLanduyt will attend the University of Wisconsin-Platteville to study agribusiness.
"I'm excited," he said. "I'm ready to move on."