There were days, especially in their just-completed senior year, when Elijah Dozier and Andrew Vicars would just as soon have stayed home.
But they had a record to uphold.
Dozier's legs ached after track at Hixson High School, and Vicars tore his ACL and fractured his tibia on the first play of Central High School's last football game of the year.
But the record, man, the record.
Both Dozier and Vicars withstood aches, pains, sniffles, coughs and sneezes to complete 12 years of school -- all within the Hamilton County Schools system -- without an absence. Dozier graduated last weekend from Hixson and Vicars from Central.
"It's truly, truly commendable," says Sonya Ecton, administrative assistant with the system's Humanities Department, which polled area high schools for students with perfect attendance.
Once the two completed elementary and middle school without missing a day, the effort to maintain perfection became somewhat of a quest.
"When he got into high school," Kelly Vicars says of her son, "he became obsessed with it. Even after he tore his ACL in his last football game, we had to schedule surgery during Christmas break so he didn't miss a day."
Andrew Vicars says the perfect attendance mark was something "to be different."
"At first, I didn't really plan on it," he says. "It just really happened. And I thought I might as well keep it up."
Dozier, who also worked, volunteered and was active in his church, says there were "plenty of those times" when he'd liked to have stayed away from school.
"But I had to [go]," he says. "I thought, 'Why not stick with it? I might get awarded for it.'"
Both Dozier and Vicars say that -- luckily -- they were relatively healthy throughout the 12 years.
"But," says Vicars, he went to school sick "more than a few times" in order to preserve the record.
Keeping the record intact became especially tough toward the end of his senior year, he says, when teachers didn't have anything for seniors to do and "I didn't really have to go."
"I usually just sat there," Vicars says, and "did nothing all day."
Being idle is not the norm for either student.
Dozier worked hard to improve his grades throughout his 12 years, occasionally adding after-school tutoring and extra tutoring at the former Honors Learning Center to his efforts.
"Many kids don't have to put in such effort," says Jim Myhan, Dozier's father, "but Elijah did, and he was able to succeed."
"Both my parents ... pushed me to go to school," Dozier says, "to care about education."
He also is a past Employee of the Month at Bojangles on Hixson Pike, where he has worked since late 2011. He figures the award signifies that he is a hard worker who would come in and do what he was asked to do.
Vicars, captain of the football team and a member of the tennis team before his senior year, also participated in choir and drama club at Central without feeling overwhelmed.
"It was easier [to be busy]," he says. "I was always there to do stuff."
Neither needed a lot of extra motivation.
"Elijah has always been great about going to sleep at night, setting his clock and waking himself up in the mornings, and getting ready for school," says Myhan. "In middle school one year, the school bus came at 5:50 a.m. to pick him up."
Her son, says Kelly Vicars, "is very self-motivated."
Well, he was "most of the time," he admits, but "more than a few time," his mom had to give him a nudge.
Vicars will attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the fall with an eye on majoring in education. Dozier plans to attend Chattanooga State Community College in the fall and major in fire science technology with an eye on a future degree in fire administration.
Dozier hopes the hard work and discipline of maintaining perfect attendance can serve him well in the future.
"They give me confidence that I can do all of it," he says.
Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.
Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...