Little Chloe Hanigan got her teeth early, walked early, and talked early, said her mother, Christina Hanigan.

The family was told the girl could skip a grade in elementary school, but for socialization growth reasons, they didn’t take that option.

Hanigan, now 18, will graduate in May from Garden City High School with achievements putting her at the top of all nominees for The News’ First Hour Academics Honor Team. She earned a 35 on the ACT, carries a 4.0-grade point average, ranks number one in a class of 440, and is a National Merit Scholar finalist.

“She’s the real deal,” said Garden City High School counselor Emily Hamlin.

Hanigan will enter the University of Kansas Honors Program, and plans to become a medical doctor. She’s not sure about a specialty or if she will pursue medical research.

Hanigan scored high enough on a test in seventh grade to qualify for the Duke Talent Identification Program and attended a summer camp. She also gained a glimpse during another summer into research laboratory work at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Department of Animal and Poultry Sciences. She hopes to participate in research as an undergraduate student.

Hanigan’s interests and achievements expand beyond the lab.

She was a sprinter in middle school and reached state competition in relays her sophomore year.

For three years, she’s served on the newspaper staff of the Garden City High School Sugar Beet. She currently is co-editor-in-chief and opinion page editor.

After the school board established an earlier daily start time for high school, Hanigan wrote in the Sugar Beet last year about the need for student input on such decisions and pointed out that studies show students perform better if they get more sleep.

That brought an invitation to join the Student Advisory Council, which gives feedback to Principal Steve Nordby. The start time set by the school board - 7:50 a.m. - remains in place.

Hanigan’s volunteer activities include helping at the LiveWell Community Center, which assists immigrants as they fill out paperwork, get to appointments, and learn English. Usually about twice a week, Hanigan will go there after school, her mother said.

Another after-school activity is dance.

At the age of three, she began dance lesson in a one-year-old studio in dance instructor Sabrina Rishel’s basement. Today, Rishel’s Steps Dance School operates in a building and has about 150 students.

Hanigan dances ballet and tap and teaches three classes at the studio to students generally ages 8 to 11.

What has that teaching experience taught her? “A lot of patience,” she responded.

Especially, she said, when she taught children around the ages of four to six.

“They’re always so happy to be there,” she said, but “it takes a lot to get them to focus,” she said. In tap classes, she noted, “they can stomp their feet and drown out my voice,” so “we have to calm them down.”

“She loves the kids and she knows how to encourage them,” said Rishel. Parents like having their kids see Hanigan as a role model, Rishel said.

Dance puts Hanigan in a comfort zone. As a young child, she cried when she had to stand in front of the class and explain her artwork. But as a dancer, she’ll perform in “The Nutcracker” before large audiences.

She would prefer to avoid public speaking, but she took speech at Garden City Community College and earned an A-plus, said Christina Hanigan. Four seniors will speak at commencement, including Hannigan.

Rishel described Hanigan as “driven.” Hamlin said the teen strives hard and is focused. Christina Hanigan said her daughter is a perfectionist. She likes to do a few things and do them perfectly, she said.

Chloe Hanigan is the middle of three daughters, Her older sister is studying at the University of Michigan, and the younger sister will be a high school senior next year. “We share a lot of the same friends and interests,” Hanigan said of her sisters.

Christina Hanigan was trained as a dentist and is a treatment coordinator for her husband Tim Hanigan's orthodontist practice. Hamlin is confident “there will be another Dr. Hanigan in that family, for sure.” Hamlin also is “100 percent” certain she is going to see Chloe Hanigan’s name in the future, whether it’s because she’s presenting at a conference or she’s part of a research group or that she’s practicing medicine.

In April, Hanigan wrote a newspaper column attempting “to debunk this irksome myth” that high school is the best time of your life.

Try to enjoy high school as best as you can, she wrote, “but also remember that the best is yet to come.”