Going their own ways: Airline students prepare for future apart after childhood together

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Airline students (left to right) Peyton Coker, Kady Mattison, Madison Rowland and Jack Griffin have spent their lives together and as graduation nears, they will take separate paths to their futures.

It was the first day of kindergarten when Peyton Coker, Kady Mattison, Madison Rowland and Jack Griffin met.

They didn’t know it then, but that day at Apollo Elementary School was just the beginning of a lifelong friendship. As they prepare to graduate from high school, the four friends are reminiscing on years past before stepping foot into separate futures.

“Thirteen years together have all come down to these final days,” Peyton said, triggering emotions and a flood of memories amongst the group.

Elementary years were filled with unforgettable firsts – from class pets and student council elections to accelerated reader and field trips. By the time they reached middle school, they had all found a connection through athletics.

Jack and Peyton had football, a sport they began playing in elementary school. Together, they played offense at Greenacres Middle School.

“We were nicknamed ‘the buffet boys’ because we were so big,” Jack recalled. “We were like six feet tall, except for (Peyton). I guess we just grew faster.”

Then there was track and field. Kady and Madison ran the relay together while Jack and Peyton threw discus, a black rubber disc they named “Charlotte.”

“I was terrible,” Peyton joked. “I stuck with baseball after that.”

And how could they forget the time Jack scored six points in his basketball season debut.

“I joined the team as a joke,” Jack explained. “My friends said they signed up, but they lied. I showed up to tryouts and I looked for them, but they weren’t there. So I made the team and sat on the bench all season. I finally got to play the last game against Benton Middle School. I threw up a prayer and the [ball] went in. I scored six points that year. It was a lot of fun.”

By the time they reached high school, they were excited to gain the independence that comes with growing up…and finally getting to talk during lunchtime! No matter what sport, club or classes they took, the four friends continued supporting each other through the years.

High school highlights include Friday nights in “Da Bay” (the student section) cheering the Vikings to victory, football workouts during the summer and running up the big hill behind the football stadium and being in Cathy Carroll’s English class, her last before retiring.

“She was sent from heaven. She’s the greatest teacher I’ve ever met,” Jack said. “She wrote me a great letter of recommendation for college scholarships.”

But with senior year comes a year of lasts. The four have culminated their final year at Airline with many school traditions – the homecoming parade and the lighting of the VIKES to homecoming dress up days and competing in the school pageants.

“Peyton and I both won Mr. Debonair and we’ve had two Airline Most Beautiful winners in our class,” Jack said. “Some say we have the best looking class at Airline High School.”

Madison said this year has been nothing but memorable, including the 20-8 basketball season and finally beating Southwood for the first time in district play.

Memories like these are what make this time bittersweet. Each senior has committed to attending college in the fall –  Jack at LSU Baton Rouge, Peyton at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston,  Madison at Northwestern State University in Natchitoches and Kady at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

But like their 13 years in Bossier Parish, the four will still be cheering each other on.

“I won’t see them every day, but know they will be there,” Peyton said.

Looking to her friends, Madison simply said ‘thanks for the memories.’

“Even though we’re about to move away and make new friends, these are the memories I’ll never forget,” she said. “They will always hold a special place in my heart.”