Class of 2021 | Budnek welcomes a set of moving goalposts

Posted 6/18/21

Quilcene High School is losing its big brother.

Zachary Budnek said the most essential part of learning has been learning what not to do.

That’s important as a leader, said Budnek, the …

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Class of 2021 | Budnek welcomes a set of moving goalposts

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Quilcene High School is losing its big brother.

Zachary Budnek said the most essential part of learning has been learning what not to do.

That’s important as a leader, said Budnek, the valedictorian for Quilcene High’s Class of 2021.

He’s made a life of leading by example. The oldest of five brothers, he’s tried to set a sterling standard for them.

“What are they going to think about this; would they do the same thing?” he said of his guiding light.

Budnek came to Quilcene about five years ago via Brinnon, where his mom, Heidi, is a school teacher. His brother, Bishop, was a junior this year at Quilcene High; his brother Deacon was a sophomore. They’re followed by Max, an eighth-grader; and Ben, in fifth grade.

Before Quilcene, Zachary was going to school in Sequim.

The move from the bigger school was a good one, he said.

“I would choose coming here instead of Sequim all day,” he said.

No offense intended.

“I got more involved in this school than I would have in Sequim,” Budnek explained. The relationships — you know everyone and everyone is supportive of you.”

His favorite subject, always, has been math with teacher Jim Weller.

“Partly because I’ve always been good with reasoning and I love solving problems,” he said.

Other activities in high school have included playing on the Ranger  basketball team, Mathletes, and Knowledge Bowl.

He’s also been outstanding on the football field, to say the least.

Budnek has been a five-year starter for the Quilcene Ranger football team and a three-year captain. This year, he was named the SeaTac League’s Most Valuable Player for Defense. As a junior, he was voted league MVP and was a First Team All-State selection at offensive and defensive line.

Despite his achievement as class valedictorian, Budnek is the first to say he’s not a know-it-all.

“I’m always willing to ask questions and humble myself,” Budnek said.

When asked about role models, Budnek is quick to note two big ones.

“One is I’ve had a lot of Christian men in my life. My football coach, people at my church; there have always been these guys that have helped guide me and keep me on track.”

When asked what he knows now that he wish he knew as a ninth-grader, Budnek was quick to answer.

“Life is your choice. You can do anything you want if you are willing to do the work. Work goes a long way.

“Sometimes it can cost you sleep, but it’s worth it,” he said.

His advice for freshmen?

“Think before you do something. Anything,” he said.

That’s not a scold, he added.

“You could be doing something good but it turns out you didn’t prepare for it. Always prepare.”

Next year, it’s off to Pacific Lutheran University, where he’ll play football and study engineering.

It’ll be a major change from the big man on the Quilcene campus to just another new kid in Tacoma.

Budnek couldn’t be more pumped.

“I’m ready to be humble again. I’m going to start as a freshman and work my way back up.”

Budnek is excited about the fresh start.

“I can’t wait to go through that experience again,” he said.

There’s one new prospect, though, Budnek said he’s really excited about.

“I’ve been sharing a room all my life, so I’m ready for college,” he laughed.

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