Valedictorian Rymer followed in father’s footsteps

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 11, 2020

By Mike London

CHINA GROVE —  When you consider academics, athletics and impact on her school, South Rowan graduate Kira Rymer may have had a better school year than anyone in Rowan County.

Besides being a year-round athlete and a volleyball player who put up stats that made her stand out nationally, Rymer was honored as South’s valedictorian with a 4.52 GPA.

“I always tried to be the very best I could be in everything I did,” she said. “But if I had to say what took priority, academics or athletics, it was academics. There were some very late nights with homework, and sometimes I was tired for that volleyball match, that swim meet or that track meet the next day. Sometimes I felt it.”

Sometimes the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Kira’s parents, Rodney Ray Rymer and Donna Gale Grubbs Rymer, were married on the Catawba College campus in 1993. They were good athletes in their day, but mostly they were scholars.

Rodney’s academic achievements at South provided a lot of the inspiration for Kira’s success with the books.

“Her dad is Kira’s hero,” Donna said.

In 1986, when he was graduating from South, Rodney was recognized by the Post as the county’s outstanding senior academically. He was the unofficial captain of the Post’s 20-person All-County Scholars team.

Rodney offered advice to students in a 1986 feature story that is still relatable. “It may be boring, but pay attention to your teachers, anyway,” he said. “You don’t have to study nearly so much if you do.”

Among other things, Rodney had a perfect attendance record during his time at South.

Those were times with seven periods in a school day. As a senior, Rodney tackled seven courses. He didn’t have a lunch period because it was the only way he could squeeze Ernie Faw’s Physics II class into his schedule, and he really wanted to take Physics II.

“You can’t trip Rodney up on a test,” Faw said in 1986. “He’s got great conceptual knowledge and a high retention of facts.”

Rodney ran track for three years for South and competed in cross country in two, but he was convinced sports always helped, rather than hindered, his academic efforts. Sports provided a needed break  and a social outlet from studying.

“The more time I have, the less I do,” Rodney explained to a Post reporter.

Kira’s mother went to high school in Winston-Salem. Athletics — she played softball and basketball for the Indians — helped bring her to Catawba. She majored in English and now holds a masters degree in education.

Rodney graduated from N.C. State in 1990 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science. He worked in Raleigh and Columbia, S.C., before he came back to Rowan County to take a job as a network analyst/technician at Catawba in 1992.

“My dad is smart, especially in math,” Kira said. “He’s always early for everything and is the most driven person I know. He works really hard. He’s a good man. He’s always been a great role model.”

It was math that helped Kira, who was a product of Bostian Elementary and China Grove Middle schools,  get separation from the other contenders for valedictorian.

“I was the only one at South that took both of AP math classes, and that helped a lot,” she said. “My junior year I took AP Stats, and that was the toughest class I ever had at South. Even though I made an A, it was a very hard A. My senior year I took AP Calculus. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t as hard as AP Stats.”

As was the case with her father, sports provided a welcome study break for Kira, who was vice president of South’s National Honor Society and treasurer of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes

Kira’s versatile volleyball career at South — she topped 1,000 kills, 1,000 assists and 1,000 digs — was capped by a senior season that included Rowan County Co-Player of the Year (shared with West’s D-I recruit Tori Hester) and Central Carolina Conference Player of the Year honors.  Kira had 548 kills, 360 assists, 294 digs, 68 blocks  and 67 aces for a 28-2 team that lost only to West Rowan in the regular season and to Fred T. Foard in the fourth round of the 2A state playoffs.

It was the best volleyball season and the longest playoff run in South history. The Raiders were 18-0 in the CCC and 16-0 at home. Kira and her first cousin, Anna Rymer, were named to High School Overtime’s All-West Region team.

The 5-foot-11 Rymer’s hitting percentage (kills minus errors, divided by total attempts) of .588 ranked fourth nationally. That was out of the thousands of player whose stats were reported to MaxPreps.

“We made history, an unforgettable season,” Kira said. “You can barely imagine doing things like going undefeated in the conference when a season starts, but that was a goal that we set and we went out and did it.”

During the swimming season, Kira was third in the 100 butterfly, fifth in the 200 IM and swam on two third-place relay teams in the Rowan County Championships. She was named MVP for South’s team.

Track and field season was barely under way when it was shut down by the coronavirus pandemic.

Kira was headed for additional success.  Second in the triple jump and fourth in the discus in the Rowan County Championships as a junior, she had improved in the discus and won her first two 2020 meets with throws that exceeded the 2019 regional qualifying standards for 2A. Her strongest fling was 96 feet, 7 inches.

Her last athletic activity for South was a home track meet on March 12.

She’ll continue her education and volleyball career at Columbia International University (CIU), a small school with about 500 students that competes at the NAIA level.

It’s not where people expected Kira, who won a statewide player of the week award from MaxPreps and a female athlete of the week award from the NCHSAA, to go, but one of the things she’s learned from her parents is not to be afraid to think outside the box or step beyond it.

“I don’t conform to others’ expectations,” Kira said. “I stay true to myself.”

She was being recruited for volleyball months before the pandemic stifled visits and campus tours, so she was able to examine a number of potential colleges up close before making her choice.

“We made trips to 12 schools, but Columbia International felt like the best fit,” Kira explained. “I liked the coaches and players and I liked the Christian atmosphere.”

Kira plans to major in business administration. Her career goals are owning a business and leading a youth ministry.

Columbia International’s volleyball season is scheduled to start on Aug. 14 in a tournament in Florida.

Kira is preparing for college by playing volleyball, cycling and taking agility lessons. She also takes long walks with her father.

“It was a goal to follow in his footsteps as South’s valedictorian,” Kira said.

Just one more thing that she’s accomplished.