HARLINGEN — It came as a shock.

Me? Valedictorian?

Allyson Puente had always been in the top of her class, but she had no idea she was at the very top of her graduating class this year at Harlingen High School.

“I really didn’t expect for it to happen,” said Allyson, 18.

“I’ve always just been wanting to get the best grade possible,” she said. “But I just never expected it to get this far.”

Laura Macmanus, salutatorian, appreciated the recognition for all her hard work.

“My freshman year when I got my first ranking I was pretty high up there,” said Laura, 18. “So I thought, ‘Oh, there’s a chance,’ so I was pushing for valedictorian but salutatorian is good.”

During her high school years, she faced the challenge of balancing numerous extracurricular activities with her academics.

“I’m the varsity tennis team captain,” said Laura, the daughter of Brian and Nancy Macmanus.

“I was the school mascot this year,” she said. “I was also in choir and in FFA. I missed school a lot, so probably the most challenging part was communicating with my teachers on what I missed and then making up work.”

Both young women seemed to have had a great deal of support at home. Laura’s two brothers were at the head of their classes, and Allyson’s mother, Laura Flores, has always emphasized education.

“Ever since I was in elementary, I’ve always been focused on whether it’s reading a book, doing extra homework or my mom just printing out random assignments online for me,” she said. “She got us to read by the time we were in kindergarten. She just wanted us to be better off than she was when she was little.”

She’s known since she was very young she wanted to enter the medical field, so she plans to study nursing at UTRGV.

“I plan to go to graduate school to specialize in anesthesiology,” she said.

Laura will be attending Texas A&M University in College Station and major in civil engineering.

“I really like math and science,” she said. “Engineering was always in the back of my mind, but I thought it was just robots and moving parts and that never really interested me. But I started looking at architecture and I found out there was an engineering that focused on design and construction. That fit the mold I wanted to go into.”

WHO: Allyson Puente

AGE: 18

WHAT: Valedictorian at Harlingen High School

PARENTS: Laura Flores

WHO: Laura Macmanus

AGE: 18

WHAT: Salutatorian at Harlingen High School

PARENTS: Brian and Nancy Macmanus