Cal Ripken Jr. is on a pace to break Lou Gehrig's Iron Man record of 2,130 consecutive games next summer, but the Orioles shortstop won't match Carla Boggess' streak until late in the 1996 season.
When the 17-year-old steps across the stage at Lansdowne High School's senior assembly tomorrow, her streak will end at 2,340 -- consecutive days of school, that is.
For 13 years from kindergarten through high school, Carla hasn't missed a day. Even chicken pox waited to break out until a few days after first grade ended.
Carla's nearest miss after the chicken pox came in elementary school when she fell out of a tree and broke her right arm. She didn't know the arm was fractured because she could move it, so off she went to school the next day.
However, by the end of the day, the arm hurt enough that a doctor applied a cast. The next day Carla was back in school.
Carla's perfect attendance was no accident, she and her parents said yesterday. She worked hard at it, and it wasn't always easy. "I had plenty of sniffles, but I went to school anyway," she said. "I often felt like I didn't want to go, but I always persuaded myself."
Each year from seven to 10 students at Lansdowne manage perfect attendance for the year and two or three attend every day through high school, said Robert T. Hamilton, assistant principal. "But 13 years, though, she's a rare bird."
Carla, a B-plus student who hopes to become a veterinarian, said she first realized she had something unusual going when a television station interviewed her at the end of elementary school -- the fifth grade.
That's when she told her father, Carl Boggess, a Lansdowne pharmacy clerk and civic activist, that she wanted to try to complete high school without missing any time. It became a family project.
"She was always a special child," said Carla's mother, Tillisa. "We were married 14 years before I got pregnant, and she's the only one."
When the streak continued through eighth grade, the middle school principal awarded Carla a $25 savings bond for her achievement.
In maintaining the streak through high school, Carla had to fend off the traditional Senior Skip Day near the end when most of her classmates took off. "I was pretty lonely then," she said.
Carla is not above jokes herself. Last April 1 she got her father good, using the perfect attendance as the hook.
She started to set him up two weeks earlier, saying a boy was annoying her in school and she was getting ready to deck him.
Mr. Boggess warned her not to do anything foolish that could get her suspended and break her attendance record.
On the day, Carla had an assistant principal write a suspension notice that she took home to her parents. Mr. Boggess said he read the notice all the way through before he found the words, "April Fool."
"It was really hard, but it makes you very strong-willed," Carla said, figuring that her achievement will help demonstrate dependability to future employers. "It gives me the satisfaction to know that I can complete something I start."