Not many high school players get to continue their playing career at the college level let alone be a two-sport athlete.
Maur Hill-Mount Academy’s Grace Sanford will have that opportunity with the University of Saint Mary by playing soccer and being on the swim team.
This scenario wasn’t actually in Sanford’s mind until just recently.
“I never thought I’d actually do this,” Sanford said. “A few weeks ago I actually had my whole life planned to go to Washburn and not play sports.”
Sanford said she already had an offer to play soccer but that getting an offer to also swim was the deciding factor.
“Saint Mary was going to be a little bit more expensive for my family and I didn’t want to put that pressure on them,” Sanford said. “But once the swim coach offered me and I got my academic scholarship back I thought about it and these are my two passions.”
Raven swim coach Kelly Elias had nothing but glowing praise for Sanford.
“I actually looked up what the name Grace means,” Elias said .”I don’t know if her parents knew what that was but she literally became the definition of her name with joy, kindness and generosity.”
Elias said Sanford is a natural leader.
“Her leadership skills are natural,” Elias said. “People want to follow her, be like her and follow her. Saint Marys is blessed to have her.”
Grace has been coached by her father, Leif Sanford who is also the MHMA soccer coach since she was a kid.
Leif Sanford said Grace has always been motivated to improve her play.
“She always had it in her to try and raise her game a little more every time,” Leif Sanford said. “Now she can raise her game at St. Mary.”
Leif Sanford said her playing close to home is a nice luxury.
“For her to be close by so we can go see the games is such a joy,” Leif Sanford said. “We’re looking forward to watching her this fall.”
Sanford will also be joined by fellow Raven Mallory Panchot who is also signed on to swim at USM.
“I’m a little bit nervous going into it,” Sanford said. “But I have two amazing coaches at Saint Mary to help me and I have peers going with me like Mallory.”