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Friday, March 23 Local

Top athletes honored as top students

Darien seniors Catherine Lacy and Cameron Van de Graaf were eating dinner at the CIAC Scholar-Athlete Banquet May 4 when they were told the good news.

Darien High School Principal Ellen Dunn turned to Lacy and Van de Graaf and told them that not only were they selected as Darien's honored scholar-athletes, but they were also named valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

"I was really elated and really happy to give four years of hard work and trying our best and to see it pay off," said Van de Graaf, who has been the captain of the golf team for two years.

The decision was made based on the students' academic achievements, including grade point average and involvement in extracurricular activities.

"It was a lot of little celebrations all at once," said Lacy, who is the captain of the indoor and outdoor track teams.

Lacy credits her success to "an amazing group of very dedicated, very compassionate teachers" in the Darien school system.

"I know that beyond the actual classes themselves, the teachers have been inspirational and challenging and have helped me grow as a person very much throughout my four years at Darien High School," Lacy said. "(The school) really provides such a wide variety of classes and such an opportunity for academic growth and a lot of schools don't have that."

Lacy will attend Yale University in the fall, with the initial plan to study math, though she said that may change once she's there.

"Math is something that's always clicked with me," said Lacy, who is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Tri-M Music Honor Society and an All-State musician. "I really like the idea that so many things can be explained with math."

Like Lacy, Van de Graaf is also in the National Honor Society, serving as the school's chapter president. Both received National Merit scholarships.

Van de Graaf is the captain of DHS' debate team, the opinions editor of Neirad, vice president of the Model U.N., captain of the golf team, head of the Quiz Bowl team and part of the authentic research program at the high school, which allows students to work with researchers.

Last summer, Van de Graaf worked with researchers at Yale University to study Lyme disease vaccines.

He will attend Stanford University in the fall. Once in college, he hopes to study economics and biology, though he has considered the quantitative business management program.

Van de Graaf found his success through the teachers in the district and the way courses are structured at the high school.

"There are high expectations of students and high expectations of teachers," Van de Graaf said. "It fuels itself."

This summer, Van de Graaf has vacations and teaching tutoring sessions planned before a "tough four years" at Stanford University.

"(My parents are) relieved that all of the stress involved (with school) has come to a close in terms of waiting on things," Lacy said. "Your entire senior year, you're waiting for the next life decision to be made."

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Lacy said the one thing that she will take with her from her four years at DHS to her life outside the 06820 ZIP code is that if you're passionate about something, do it."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews

"At the beginning of high school, they tell you that you have to choose a couple of things, and you shouldn't do everything because then you won't have time for anything," Lacy said. "But if you really love something, you should never give it up."

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews