The same, yet different.
For most twins, that statement says it all. Being a twin is a rare thing, but having those twins finish at the top of their class as valedictorian and salutatorian is even more out of the ordinary.
However, that is what has happened to not just one set of twins in Lancaster County School District, but two.
Claire and Avery Plyler of Buford High and Kaelie and Bella Sikorski of Indian Land High are both valedictorian and salutatorian for each of their schools.
Graduations for local high schools are Thursday, May 26, and Friday, May 27. Andrew Jackson High’s ceremony is 9 a.m. Thursday, followed by Lancaster High at 11 a.m. Buford High’s ceremony is 9 a.m. Friday, followed by Indian Land High at 11 a.m.
Claire and Avery Plyler, 18, are used to sharing things, but that hasn’t stopped them from competing for those same things.
The Buford graduates will be this year’s valedictorian and salutatorian for the Yellow Jackets class of 2022.
Getting to be the top two graduates in the class of 2022 has been a long back-and-forth process between the identical twins.
Sometimes Avery would be leading the race for valedictorian, sometimes Claire would be and sometimes a third student would bump them both from the top spot. However, in the end, Claire will be the valedictorian, with Avery the salutatorian.
Both of them will attend Coastal Carolina University together later this year.
“Ever since seventh grade at the end-of-the-year awards, either one of us has always been given the highest honor award, which means the highest grade-point average,” Claire said. “Sometimes it was Avery. Then in eighth grade, I got it, and ever since then we have known our rank.”
Both sisters agreed that it was important for them to finish first and second in their graduating class. Claire will graduate with a 5.318 GPA and Avery with a 5.269 GPA.
“We are such high achievers,” Claire said. “We have learned from our family and how high achieving they are.”
The twins are the daughters of Jodie and Stephen Plyler.
In finishing first and second in their class, the sisters pushed each other, as their competitive nature always seems to be getting the best of both of them.
Claire may be valedictorian, but Avery has her beat when it comes to height, by a half-inch. But Claire is older, by two minutes. Ever since the two were born, they both seemed to have a competitive spirit about them.
“The height is what started the competition,” Claire said.
“The height has always gone back and forth,” Avery added.
The competitiveness between the two led them to taking the same classes in high school.
Although they will be heading to the same college, things will be a little different now because they are majoring in different subjects.
“We were split up for so long in our early years in school because we always got in trouble,” Claire said. “We were little and annoying. We didn’t want to have anything different. We helped each other out.”
The twins will still be sharing housing, along with clothing and shoes at college, but Claire will be majoring in digital culture and design, and Avery in marine science.
“We have completely different interests,” Avery said. “I have always liked the idea of being a marine biologist.”
“I have loved social media for so long and I love creating and being artistic,” Claire said. “I love the platforms that are out there.”
The sisters are both three-sport athletes, playing volleyball, basketball and soccer. And while the two can be hard to tell apart, most of their friends can do so without a problem. There are some features that set them apart from each other.
“I never do anything with my hair,” Avery said. “She is called 'Claire with the hair.'”
“I always change my hair every day,” Claire said. “That helps teachers.”
Their mother, Jodie, said these days she doesn’t have trouble telling them apart except in certain situations, like maybe when their hair is in a towel, but that is about it.
“They move differently and they speak differently,” she said.
When they were babies, Jodie worked out a system to tell them apart.
“When they were small, we had trouble,” she said. “We had a Sharpie and kept a C on Claire’s foot for a long time, just to make sure. We didn’t want to give one food twice and the other one not get any.”
Like the Plyler twins, the Sikorskis, also 18, have known for a while their ranking in the Class of 2022 for Indian Land. Kaelie will be graduating as valedictorian with a 5.381 GPA and Bella as salutatorian with a 5.355 GPA.
“In elementary and middle school, we were kind of up there in getting awards, but when we got into high school, we started taking dual-enrollment classes,” Kaelie said. “We just took advantage of all the classes we could take and it got us higher (in the rankings).”
The sisters knew where they ranked in their class by the time their sophomore year rolled around.
However, the sisters agreed they were never rivals with each other for the top spot in the class.
“We weren’t competing with each other,” Bella said. “We just helped each other study for exams and study for quizzes. It wasn’t competitive. We ended all of the same classes with the same grades anyway. There was no competition, it just happened.”
Kaelie and Bella never flip-flopped in their class rankings, always remaining first and second, and helping each other out along the way.
“We always knew Kaelie was going to be No. 1,” Bella said.
“I never wanted to be No. 1, let’s get that straight,” Kaelie said. “I just wanted to be No. 3 because of the anxiety of the speech.”
However, the twins will be there to help each other out with their graduation speeches as they are doing them together.
“If we were going to be val and sal, we are going to do a combined speech, as Kaelie is hoping I do most of the talking,” Bella said.
The twins were born prematurely, arriving at 31 weeks, and had to stay in the hospital for a while. Bella is older by 12 minutes than Kaelie. They are the daughters of Jay and Wendy Sikorski.
They were too small for a bottle, so they had to have an IV to get any nutrition in them. During that time, the IV leaked and left a permanent scar on Bella’s left wrist. That scar helps some people tell them apart, but to mom Wendy, it’s never been an issue.
“Forever, the little scar has been the biggest tell,” she said. “To me, they have always been different, but their grandmother to this day does not know one from the other. She pretends like she does, but she can’t tell. Most of their friends can tell.”
The twins admitted that it sometimes gets annoying that people can’t tell them apart.
“It’s the people that you have been around constantly that keep asking, ‘which one are you?’ ” Kaelie said.
One thing that helps set them apart from each other is their personalities. Bella is more straightforward; Kaelie is more amiable, Wendy said.
“If you look at her, you can tell what she is thinking because she doesn’t try to hide it,” Kaelie said of Bella.
For the most part, the sisters have always got along. They enjoy pretty much the same things, like sports, and often share clothing, among other things.
Although they have lived their entire life together, this August, they are heading their separate ways. Kaelie is heading to the University of South Carolina to go into nursing and Bella is off to Clemson University to go into animal science. They both realize it may be hard to live apart from the other.
“We have helped each other study for so long,” Bella said. “We tested each other on the material to get a different perspective on things. A built-in study partner for sure.”
Military veteran, hard-nosed newspaper man, devoted husband, father and grandfather, Charles “Buck” Moore led with a servant’s heart.
“He was a private man, a man of few words. He was a true family man, honest, honorable and a man of character,” said the Rev. Brad Threatt, pastor of White Springs Baptist Church.
Moore, a former reporter and editor for The Lancaster News, died Monday, May 16, following an extended illness that kept him homebound for the last five years. He was 80.
“He served his country well. He served his community well and, even more so, he served his family well,” Threatt said.
Born Sept. 1, 1941, Moore’s early life was anything but typical. He came up hard and was only 11 when his father, Robert Moore, died.
He quit school as soon as he was old enough and joined the Navy in 1961. In the military, Moore served as a hospital corpsman for eight years, including 18 months with the Marine Corps. He married his wife, Juanita, a registered nurse, in 1962 and they returned to Lancaster in 1969.
After working for Springs and Westinghouse for several years, Moore started taking classes at the University of South Carolina, while writing and shooting sports photos part time at The Lancaster News.
A non-traditional student, Moore raised a family while working on his degree.
“He was the ship for our family and Mom was the anchor,” said Moore’s son, Phillip. “I wasn’t very old, but his desk was in the bedroom near the window. He would be in there studying, but I would go back and get his attention. Dad would put away his books and we would play for a while and then he would get right back to studying.”
After earning his college degree from USC, Moore was hired as a full-time reporter at The Lancaster News.
“He loved it because he genuinely loved the people,” said his wife, Juanita.
Robert Howey, The Lancaster News sports editor, said Moore had a passion for people and his profession.
“There’s irony to Buck’s passing,” said Howey. “He died a week shy of my 45th anniversary at The Lancaster News. That’s a long time, but Buck had a major hand in helping me reach that milestone. Buck had some help along the way in rising in the ranks at The News, and I always felt he took it upon himself to help others, especially young reporters, reach their potential.”
As a young reporter fresh out of college (The Citadel), Howey had little journalism experience, save a TLN summer internship prior to his senior year in college, but he said Moore saw something in him.
“Buck said I had a knack, a flair for writing,” Howey said. “He helped me refine my style and at the same time provided key guidance for developing a newspaper career.
“I learned from Buck, no matter the story, give it your best, be it a mundane government budget meeting or an exciting state championship game. He practiced what he preached, because I witnessed him doing both and he gave me a wonderful example to follow.”
Howey said Moore always stressed the importance of knowing the community and having a direct hand on its pulse.
“He’d say if you don’t do your job (cover the community), someone else (another newspaper) will do it,” Howey said. “I think of that often, and I know, though it’s been some years since Buck was at the paper, that The News is the newspaper it is today because of people like Buck.
“Greg Summers has told me from time to time, how Buck has contacted him and provided encouragement and praise for a story he’s written,” Howey said. “Buck always cared about The Lancaster News.”
Always low-key and private outside his family and inner circle of friends, Moore retired from The Lancaster News on March 31, 1991, after serving as editor for six years.
In his usual manner, he did so with little fanfare, never even mentioning it in the newspaper.
Moore’s last column focused on the U.S. Postal Service confusion caused from having three towns named Lancaster in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and California.
However, former TLN Publisher Van King recognized Moore’s contributions in an April 5, 1991, column.
King noted that Moore had set a standard as a consistent watchdog.
“Many of you have felt the sharp tip of this swordsman’s stroke, for he has been one of the keepers of the community. It has been his job for six years at editor of The Lancaster News to see that we see to ourselves,” King wrote.
Moore, he said, planned to travel, work on improving his golf swing and enjoying time with family and friends.
King said that Moore often spoke about his family and friends with a genuine “love and fondness that made you want to be one.”
A cancer survivor, Moore underwent a laryngectomy in 2005 to remove a section of his larynx, or voice box.
As a result, he often encouraged others facing the same procedure and spoke about it at several national forums, as wells as online and through cards and letters.
Moore is survived by his wife, Juanita Moore; his son, Phillip Moore; and two grandchildren. He was preceded in death by one son, Eric Moore.
“If he touched you, he remained with you,” Phillip said.
Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at 803-339-6869.
Editor's note: Updated with corrected road name and date for repaving completion.
Lancaster County officials have agreed to pay a developer $120,000 for a troublesome substandard Indian Land road that has been a 10-year headache for Panhandle commuters and homeowners alike.
After meeting behind closed doors for almost 45 minutes Monday night, May 23, Lancaster County Council came into open session and unanimously voted to settle the pending lawsuit with Regent Parkway Partners for $120,000.
A half-mile shortcut road, Regent Parkway runs between Harrisburg Road and S.C. 21 in Fort Mill and is used by more than 10,000 vehicles a day, said Lancaster County Councilman Brian Carnes. The road is in his district.
“The county required it (the settlement) for it to become part of the county’s road system. The county has already taken possession of it. This confirms the title and the just compensation for Regent Parkway without having a jury decide it,” said County Attorney John DuBose.
In February 2021, the county bought the private road for only $16,000, using eminent domain to wrestle it away from Fort Mill developer Earl Coulston of Coulston Enterprises.
A multi-step, years-long legal process, eminent domain allows governmental entities to take property for a public purpose.
Since the county used eminent domain to buy the road, Coulston had the right to contest the sale price in court and was preparing to do so until the settlement was reached. Many parkway homeowners and motorists have lamented the poor condition of Regent Parkway for more than a decade.
But the county was powerless to repair it since it was privately owned.
Coulston bought Regent Parkway in 2003. At one time, it was one of the main access roads to Heritage USA, the onetime home of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s PTL ministry. Since PTL’s demise, hundreds of homes have been built along that section of road.
But for years, Coulston refused to fix it or get it up to standards so the county would accept it.
“The county had no other choice than to do what we did to get it fixed,” said County Council Chairman Steve Harper. The road was slated to be repaired through the county’s third capital sales tax that voters passed in 2020.
However, surplus funding from the second capital sales tax will be used to fix it. Consumers pay the 1% tax at the cash register. It’s an alternative way to raise revenue for capital projects without increasing property taxes or issuing bonds.
The repaving project should go out to bid within the next two months.
“We hope to have it repaired by December 2023," said Lancaster County Public Works Director Jeff Catoe.
Carnes noted the county will also be installing guardrails along Regent Parkway in the upcoming weeks.
A Lancaster man died at a Pineville hospital after a car accident last week in Indian Land.
William Edwards Adams, 87, died from injuries sustained in the accident after being taken to the hospital, according to the Lancaster County Coroner’s Office.
The driver of the vehicle, Mary Patricia Adams, 80, of Lancaster, was also injured in the accident. Both were taken to Atrium Hospital in Pineville by Lancaster County EMS, police said.
The accident happened on U.S. 521 near the intersection of Doby’s Bridge Road about 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 19. According to the police, Mary Adams ran off the right side of the road; hit a ditch and then an embankment.
The accident is under investigation by the S.C. Highway Patrol.
Follow Mac Banks on Twitter @MacBanksFM or contact him at 803-339-6867.