The Class of 1998 had the highest academic record ever at Timpview High School, class president Kimberly Karen Morrison said Thursday at the beginning of graduation exercises.

Included in student accomplishments were three state Sterling Scholars and the best student newspaper in the state, she said. Timpview students were state champs in football, girls basketball and drama and won national recognition in dance. Three of the 12 Gordon B. Hinckley scholarships went to Timpview graduates. The Hinckley scholarship is the top, full-ride scholarship Brigham Young University offers.Graduation exercises, held in the BYU Marriott Center for the 518 graduates, also bucked a national trend by opening with prayer. The prayer wasn't on the printed program, but Ginny McKinney offered it anyway.

"It's never on the program," said a school office worker. "It's something the students do on their own if they want to."

"It's initiated by the student officers," said principal Randall Merrill.

Valedictorian Paul A. Wright cited the prayer in his speech as an example of tearing down walls that hold people back. "I'm grateful to those who help tear down walls," he said.

Student speaker Stephanie Folaumoeloa offered encouragement to classmates to "(light) the path for others," spinning off the graduation theme, "I will not follow where the path may lead, but I will go where there is no path, and I will leave a trail," by Muriel Strode.

Student speaker Nicholas W. Thompson picked up the theme by explaining how a pair of ugly shoes he wore as a child helped him achieve individualism. "Don't hesitate to be different," he said.

Salutatorian Miriam Allred continued that thought by telling the audience, "Inside every trailblazer is a blazing trail."

Merrill said he was honored to lead a school that turned out such graduates. He then issued a challenge that they associate with people of quality, live with imagination and enthusiasm and offer illumination. He garnered a round of applause when he said, "I want you to go outside and scream, I'm a nacho and the world is my dip."