As Elisha North walks down the ninth fairway at Hickory Hills Golf Club, the course’s clubhouse is straight ahead. The Monroe Central Sectional is nearing its end on Monday, and a crowd has assembled around the clubhouse. The competitors, coaches and fans are all eager to see the scorecards come in, to know which teams and individuals will advance to regionals. One of the players they’re waiting on is the last Rebel.
North became the last athlete to ever represent Southside in competition as he finished his round at Monday’s sectional. The Rebels’ golf season was the last one to end this spring, and North was the last golfer to come off the course when his squad finished its year at the sectional tournament. As soon as teammate Jasper Jameson finished his round one group ahead of him, North officially became the last Rebel.
Southside will become a middle school in the fall, Muncie Community Schools opting to go with one high school at Central. Throughout the school year, each Southside athletic team went through its own series of lasts. There were last games against rival Central, last home games, and last games of last seasons. North’s performance on Monday was the final event on that long list.
North narrowly missed a feat few athletes ever have a chance to attempt. He turned in what he said was the best competitive round of his career, shooting 82, just one stroke behind the final regional qualifier. Had he qualified, he would have single-handedly extended his high school’s athletic history by four days.
By the time he took his second shot on the par-4 ninth hole, he stood alone as the last current Rebel, after thousands of athletes had competed for his school before him. He walked alone down the fairway as the action headed toward the green. He said his only thought as he played the hole was about his desire for a birdie.
Eventually, he sank a 6-foot putt for par on the hole. He shook the hands of the players from Delta and Winchester, with whom he played the round, then walked off as the last athlete in Southside’s 52-year history as a high school.
“It’s kind of a big honor,” North said. “Because there’s a pretty rich sports history at Southside. Not really in golf too much. But in terms of state titles or state champions, we have quite a few. And it’s nice to be able to be the last to represent all of that.”
North’s parents didn’t go to Southside, and he didn’t attend any of Southside’s feeder schools growing up. He has an older sister who went to Southside (she was a senior when he was a freshman), but he had limited familiarity with the school when he showed up as a new student in ninth grade. Over four years, he grew to feel a part of the Southside community.
When North arrived at Southside, one of his first priorities was to figure out how to join the golf team. He didn’t play a lot of organized sports growing up, but he picked up golf in the summer before eighth grade after learning the sport from his grandfather.
His grandfather felt he had a natural swing, and North quickly became hooked. Upon his arrival at his new school, he knew it would be a way he could get to know new people, so he was eager to join the golf team.
With boys golf being a spring sport, he had to wait most of the school year. But as soon as there was a meeting for prospective golfers, he was there to declare his interest. It wasn’t the only activity that helped him feel involved (he’s also heavily involved in band), but golf also gave him a sense of belonging at the school.
As he gets ready to leave Southside after Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, it’s clear North has a strong connection with his soon-to-be alma mater.
“There is something special about being a Rebel,” North said. “Because everybody knows everybody. We’re really accepting. There aren’t cliques, as people will say. It’s all pretty close together, close-knit. Because it’s not a huge school, but it’s not a small school, either. So it’s a nice size to get to know a lot of people without feeling excluded.”
North took over the title of the Rebels’ No. 1 golfer as a junior, then never relinquished that status. Southside coach Larry Alexander said North is always willing to work on his weaknesses, even when it doesn’t involve the most fun aspects of the sport, something that has proved vital in his rise to the top of the Rebels’ lineup.
While the distinction of being the last athlete to represent the school came from his place in the lineup, Alexander described North as a great representative of the school as its last ever athlete.
“No. 1, he’s a great student,” Alexander said. “No. 2, he’s just conscientious. He’s in all kinds of activities at school, he’s just friendly to everybody, willing to help anybody out with everything.”
Before he became the last Rebel, North’s place in Southside history was already secure. He is also first in his class academically, so he will also go down as the school’s last valedictorian.
He will attend Taylor University, beginning in the fall, to study chemistry. He won’t be spending his first semester in Upland, Ind., though. He will instead go to Ireland for his first semester of college, part of an Irish studies program.
North’s status as valedictorian means he will give a speech at the school’s graduation ceremony. Like the chance to be the last Rebel, he considers the opportunity to say goodbye to the last class of Rebels a great honor. He already has a theme planned. He will be talking about re-purposing. As their school prepares to be re-purposed into a middle school, the last Rebel and his classmates will also be re-purposing, going from Southside students to whatever comes next in their lives.