MIDLOTHIAN — Three years ago, a group of students took a plunge into a new school, environment and pool of potential. The 2017 Midlothian Heritage High School senior class has amassed multiple handfuls of accolades on the field, court and in the classroom, but two Jaguars have left their mark on the school’s history like no one else will ever be able to match.

“It really came down the end for me,” said Jackson McLaughlin, salutatorian of the Midlothian Heritage Class of 2017. “[…] I think it is pretty awesome. Ever since we came here, I thought we had a chance to be it and think it is just a crazy cool opportunity to be the first two up there.”

Moving one spot up the GPA chart, 2017 valedictorian Joshua Aston explained he had known since transferring from Midlothian High that, as long as he sustained the same level of success in the classroom, he would be one of the top two in the class.

“I knew there would be a lot more opportunity for sports and in the classroom, but I knew I had a good chance to be up there,” said Aston. The valedictorian also credits his parents, Josh and Jill, and sister, Kayla, as being a driving force behind his academic and athletic success. “I would definitely say that meeting my parents' expectations is the reason why I am here. They have always expected way more from me than I ever thought I could do.”

During their athletic careers in Jaguar red, white and blue, Aston played was a wide receiver on the Heritage football team, pitched for the Jaguars on the baseball diamond, and also competed on the wrestling and track teams, while McLaughlin was on the basketball team.

“It is pretty challenging, like during basketball season school is a 12-hour day if you include school and practice and that doesn’t include homework after or time with friends and family,” McLaughlin explained. “It is definitely a grind. It is also a skill that we are both going to be able to take into the future.

“Coach (Lee) Wiginton was really on to us about our grades a lot, and that helped,” Aston said. “He also got really excited when he found out I was the valedictorian. He really did help us. […] There have been several teachers that have helped shape us here.”

Aston will attend Texas A&M University to enter into the honors engineering program. “I love math and science, and physics is probably my favorite class, so it just seemed like a good fit,” he explained.

McLaughlin has plans to attend Texas Tech University in the fall to become a chiropractor or physical therapist, eventually.

“I thought about going to medical school and becoming an M.D. but I don’t know how much I like blood and stuff, so I’ll settle for cracking some backs,” said McLaughlin with a laugh. The salutatorian has two younger siblings, Jacob and Sophia, and said his parents, Ann Marie and Jay, have been “pretty influential in getting me to where I am. We have had a lot of crazy moments, but at the end of the day, I have to really thank them for getting me to where I am.”

“[…] It definitely pays off — all of the hardships and adversity that you might have — in the end if you really work hard and bust it to the end to get where you want to go,” McLaughlin continued.

“But just don’t push it so hard that you aren’t enjoying what you are doing anymore,” Aston added.

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Travis M. Smith, @Travis5mith

(469) 517-1470