Hayden graduates toss their caps into the air after officially graduating from high school Sunday.

Photo by Ben Ingersoll

Hayden graduates toss their caps into the air after officially graduating from high school Sunday.

Hayden High School graduates 28 in Class of 2014

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— Hayden High School’s Class of 2014 spent Sunday’s graduation ceremony running through the same lines heard at most graduations: reflecting on the past, present and future while highlighting the monumental firsts and lasts that come with receiving a high school diploma.

2013-14 Hayden Scholarships

Ian Cadenhead

Craig M. Weaver Memorial Scholarship, $1,000

Liam Delaney

HHS Student Council, $500

Greg Frentress

Babson Carpenter, $500

Doak Walker, $1,500

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., $1,000

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, $1,000

Michelle Gutierrez-Alonso

CMC Lucy Bogue Memorial, $500

CMC George Tolles International Studies, $1,000

Becca Hoza

UNC Trustee Academic, $24,000

UNC Legacy, $2,000

Heather Nereson

CSU Aggie, $8,000

CSU Audrey Sandstead, $500

Steamboat Noon Rotary, $2,000

Don & Eileen Lufkin 4-H, $3,500

County Sheriffs of Colorado, $500

Doak Walker, $1,500

Routt County CattleWomen, $1,100

HHS Student Council, $500

Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., $1,000

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, $250

Abigail Velasquez

Hayden Union/Alumni, $50

Marie Blee, $500

Neylan Wheat

Coastal Carolina, $48,000

Matthew Wright

Imagine America, $1,000

Tyanna Zabel

Gerald R. Murphy Memorial, $750

Hayden Education Association, $500

Hayden Union/Alumni, $50

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, $250

Olivia Zehner

Steamboat Springs Board of Realtors, $1,000

But staying true to the town’s form, Hayden likes to do things a little bit differently, never shying away from its Western identity in the high school’s packed gymnasium.

Country music blared from the sound system. There were as many button-up shirts and ties as there were flannels and belt buckles. Pickups lined the school parking lot, coming in hordes to honor the 28 students jumping away from prep school and into life’s next steps.

And even though Hayden’s new round of graduates represents just a tiny portion of the state’s 17- and 18-year-olds moving on to college, the workforce or military service, they’ll be doing so from the California coast to the Atlantic this time next year.

Some are staying home, working the ranches and mines, following in their families’ footsteps. Some are doing much of the same labor, but in California or elsewhere throughout Colorado.

Others are going to brave the world of college, such as 2014 Class President Neylan Wheat, who accepted the Coastal Carolina Scholarship, worth as much as $48,000 at the university in South Carolina.

And there was Salutatorian Heather Nereson’s name ringing out time and time again during the scholarship announcements, collecting more than $18,800 in all as she makes her way to Colorado State University. She’ll join a small handful of Tiger graduates who are Fort Collins bound, such as Greg Frentress and Tyanna Zabel.

Becca Hoza already has wrapped up her associate degree, after taking Colorado Mountain College courses during high school, and is bound for the University of Northern Colorado, where she was honored with the UNC Trustee Scholarship, the highest academic-based award the school gives.

Valedictorian Ian Cadenhead, who finished his Hayden academic career first in his class with a 4.32 GPA, will head to the University of Colorado.

It’s a class, as Nereson explained in her salutatorian address, whose members are awfully familiar with one another, having spent the majority of their academic careers thus far in the small district’s halls.

“When will it be over?” Nereson asked, saying that for years, she and her fellow classmates would stare at the clock on classroom walls, wondering when instruction finally would wrap up.

That clock officially has run out, and Nereson pleaded with the 27 others in caps and gowns Sunday to remember the memories they laid down together in their small Northwest Colorado town.

Administrators weren’t without some milestones in this year’s commencement, either.

High school Principal Gina Zabel was able to be onstage as her daughter, Tyanna, received $1,550 worth of scholarships, and she watched as Tyanna accepted her diploma. Zabel also recognized retiring Superintendent Mike Luppes, overseeing his final graduation before entering the world of endless days off.

When it was all said and done, Gina Zabel noted that the 28 graduating students had endured more than 2,000 days of school in their lifetime, as she held back tears quoting country artist Darius Rucker’s song “It Won’t be Like This for Long” in her opening commencement address.

And as Nereson explained in her speech, the word commencement at its root means to begin or start, and she and 27 others embark on their next set of milestones, looking to fulfill their 2014 class motto, "If your dreams don’t scare you, they are not big enough.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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