Outstanding Midlands 2021 graduates
This past year has been a difficult year for most, especially for our high school students. They switched to virtual learning and missed out on some of high school’s best memories and traditions. The State is highlighting a series of 2021 Midlands graduates who beat the highest odds, set the bar high to serve and reach, and urge us to make no excuses in pursuing our highest potential. Meet them here.
His wrestling trainer called him “four stroke” – because, surely, Luke Furtick would bring home four State Championships, one for each year at Swansea High School.
Instead, Furtick watched from the sideline which team he considered family failed to win the title in their freshman year. He was one of the youngest members of the squad and he didn’t even take the mat in the Championship tournament, but his teammates elected him captain and presented him with their finalist trophy.
“You wanna talk about the tears shed“said Furtick, who is now graduating near the top of Swansea’s upper class.
It’s hard for him not to wonder if the outcome of this tournament could have been different, if the team could have won the championship, if he had participated. If heart disease, diagnosed when Furtick was only 9, hadn’t suddenly pulled him off the mat.
And it’s hard not to think about the unfairness of it all – âThey can do it; not me. I should be able to get out. â¦ I was just crazy. â¦ But I was also proud of them.
âThis team was family to me,â said Furtick.
Heart disease, discovered when Furtick was in fifth grade, forced him to give up football as an elementary school student and then quit wrestling five years later – heartbreaking for the natural competitor.
âWe are competitive in our house,â said Furtick’s mother Kari, who teaches at Swansea High. His father, Travis, is a police officer in Orangeburg. âWe push each other. I think he gets that from us in good nature.
Furtick had every reason to use his heart disease as an excuse to hold back, to do less.
But why? I’m still perfectly capable, âhe reasoned.
After taking his second year off from competitive sports, Furtick couldn’t help but be part of a team. He found a new home on the trail, with the blessing of his doctor.
âHe’s by far our best long-distance runner,â said Daniel Burton, Furtick’s track coach, who saw the teenager not only take on a natural role in competition, but also a natural role of leader. âNowadays, a lot of children are shy to take the lead. â¦ But Luke is just stepping into that role. He is the first to show others how to do something.
Furtick competed in cross country competitions in the fall and qualified through to the Lower State track tournament this spring. His track career ended there, but he’s got plenty to keep him busy before continuing his studies at the University of South Carolina Aiken this fall, including attending a national Beta Club convention at Disney World this summer. .
Furtick, who also ranks among the top academics in his class, is considering a possible career in medicine. He thinks he could become the same kind of compassionate and supportive doctor that has been treated since his heart diagnosis.
He has no excuse to prevent her from doing so.
âEveryone has experienced something great. â¦ It’s something that everyone has in common, âsaid Furtick. âYou have to let it build you, develop you, learn from it. I did this with my heart problem. I had this excuse, but I won’t let it hold me back.