There were never any questions at Jackson High School about the work ethic or integrity that Elizabeth Graeff displays on a daily basis.
Graeff is all in, all the time, when it comes to her studies and her sports. She succeeded in swimming, cross country and track and field at Jackson, and is preparing to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
Graeff, a National Honor Society member, posted a 4.6 grade-point average. She scored a 31 on her ACT, and leaves Jackson with varsity letters and the honor of being the Akron Beacon Journal Female Scholar Athlete of the Year for the 2013-2014 school year
“She has always been a hard worker,” said her mother, Beth Graeff. “She swam from 8 years old on, for multiple days each week. Sometimes it would be cold, and I would say ‘Do you really want to go tonight?’ And she would look at me and it was like ‘What do you mean? There really is no option.’ She gets up at 5 o’clock in the morning to go to swimming. She has an incredible work ethic.”
Graeff earned four letters apiece in cross country, swimming and track and field.
“Biz is an awesome girl,” said Jackson Athletic Director Terry Peterson, who nominated Graeff for the award. “She is a very well-rounded student-athlete. She truly is a student first and an athlete second. She is a leader and a very mature young woman, both in and out of the pool and track. She is a dedicated and hard working individual who is always looking for ways to get better.”
Swimming is Graeff’s most prolific sport. She was named All-Federal League first team four times and was a four-time Division I state qualifier. She was selected as the 2014 Federal League Swimmer of the Year, and is an All-American as a swimmer and student.
“We are amazingly proud of her,” said her father, Mike Graeff. “She has impressed the heck out of us with all that she has accomplished.
Graeff holds school records in the 100 backstroke (57.47), 200 medley relay (1:47.86), 200 freestyle relay (1:37.04) and 400 freestyle relay (3:35.95). She participated in several school clubs and volunteered her time to multiple community activities.
“Most of my fond memories are from sports,” Elizabeth Graeff said. “I had a really great time on my cross country team. It is pretty much a big family of 140 runners. We spent at least 45 minutes a day running together, so you never run out of things to talk about. We get really close with our running groups. I am also very close with my swimming teammates because it is very hard to push yourself by yourself every day. It is a bond we share as swimmers. I also had some really amazing teachers, especially my senior year. Mr. [Bruce] Lautzenheiser and Mrs. [Christine] Adolph, they were really role models for me and they provided me my best education and best memories.”
Graeff is set to swim for Navy and said her primary academic interests involve chemistry and economics. She hopes to nab a business degree and plans to minor in Chinese.
“I was first attracted to Navy because of their swim team,” Elizabeth Graeff said. “I filled out a recruiting questionnaire and then I started looking into it and became more attracted to going to there because of the girls I met there on the swim team. They have been nothing but helpful. They are amazing leaders and they are all great people. The numerous opportunities that come from the Naval Academy. Yes, you have to serve five years — but after that, you are almost guaranteed a job, and a job that will pay you well. I am excited about the education I will get there.”
She went through the interview process with Ohio senators and members of Congress, and received the proper letters of recommendation and an appointment.
“I was very nervous, skeptical and trepidatious to start with, and then we went last April for junior day and I met the girls,” said Beth Graeff, a dental hygienist in Jackson. “Like Elizabeth, they are just an incredible group of women. All of them are outgoing and very much like Elizabeth. They took to her. After we met them that weekend, I was convinced that I would like to do this.”
Mike Graeff, an electrical engineer and president of Koch Knight, a ceramics company in Canton, also was on edge when his daughter explored the idea of going to Navy.
“We think we know what we are going to see and we hope we know what we are going to see,” Mike Graeff said. “It is going to be up to Biz to report back to us what it is like. I think it is going to be as much a learning experience for Beth and I as it is for Biz.”
Beth and Mike Graeff are both products of the University of Pittsburgh. Son Ben Graeff, 26, is a Jackson and Harvard graduate. He works as a video game developer in Seattle.
“My swim coach, Matt Ziders, is also a really big role model to me,” Elizabeth Graeff said. “He is that all-around great person. He is really great towards his family and he acts like all the swimmers are part of his family. My cross country coaches [led by Kevin Walsh] have done a really good job uniting us and showing us how a team works. I think that will help me in college because the Naval Academy is so unit based. You live in a company and do everything with them.
“I think that being on those teams has helped me prepare to be a leader and know how team dynamics work and know how you have to compromise for other people. I also think that my teachers have prepared me just by challenging me.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.