SCHOLAR ATHLETE: Rankin’s Bunger ready to go the distance

Faith has always held an important part in Emily Bunger’s life.

Whether on the basketball court, the track or in the classroom, it is of what has driven her to become the best person that she can be at Rankin High School.

The combination of determination and faith has paid off as she finishes as the Red Devils valedictorian for the Class of 2021.

Bunger said that it had been one of her goals to finish at the top of her class even before she arrived at Rankin.

She spent the first two years of high school at Eden before her family moved during the summer before her junior year.

“I would stay up late to do stuff but I would just pray to God about it and listen from there and see what I needed to do,” Bunger said.

Bunger had a lot to balance as she competed in basketball, tennis, track and cross country.

She earned plenty of accolades in basketball that included district MVP awards and all-state selections.

She qualified for the state track meet in discus and competed in five different events at the regional meet.

She was also involved in National Honor Society and participated in UIL Academic competitions.

Managing her time was an essential skill and it stood out in the mind of girls basketball head coach Eric Simonds.

“That part of it is really amazing because you would never think that she is ever stressed or ever worried about anything,” Simonds said. “She attacked school work the same way that she attacked basketball.

“She was willing to outwork everybody else and that’s what she did.”

Bunger played an integral part in helping the Red Devils reach the Class 1A regional final this season, the farthest the program had ever advanced.

Her favorite moment playing basketball came this past season where she helped orchestrate a 22-2 fourth quarter comeback to help the Red Devils earn a victory in the regional semifinals.

She was a leading scorer and a sharpshooter on a team that led the state in Class 1A for the most 3-pointers made.

Bunger led the state individually and was recognized by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches for her efforts.

“It just took a lot of practice,” Bunger said. “Over the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I would make 100 3-pointers a day as many days as I had a chance to.”

Simonds added: “With Emily, her leadership is all about example. She’s not someone that’s real vocal but she shows up early and stays late and puts in all the extra work that you want your best player to put in. I think that rubbed off on the rest of our girls which was great for us.”

Aside from work on the court, she also wanted to make sure that she could set an example of faith with her team.

Bunger and her teammates started a routine where they prayed after practice and also created a prayer wall in the locker room where each girl on the team would chose a different Bible verse that they would reflect on during the week.

“I just do everything for the glory of God,” she said. “He does humble me a lot if I get prideful about something.”

Faith played an important role in helping Bunger determine her next steps and finding peace in her decision.

She’ll get an opportunity to continue her basketball career at Jacksonville College with plans to major in kinesiology and a long-term goal of becoming an occupational therapist.

Her motivation for that path comes from her cousin who has Down syndrome as well as her grandfather who is a veteran.

“She’s grown up with an occupational therapist and I’ve seen how it has impacted her life,” Bunger said. “I want to work with special needs or veterans and give back to others.”