It was never one without the other concerning Lindsey Grater’s love of swimming and running.
Yet, the two-sport standout for Chestatee High had the impression her only option at the next level was to give up one during the meticulous process of finding the right college.
That was until a Chestatee High assistant coach hinted at one private Division II institution in Tampa, Fla.
The University of Tampa presented her the full-package deal: a scholarship for academics and an opportunity to continue her joint-sports venture of swimming and cross country. The senior officially signed her letter of intent on Dec. 6, soon trading the War Eagle burgundy and white for Spartan red, black and gold next fall.
“I was told by my parents, teachers and coaches that I had to choose just one sport,” Grater said. Tampa was the first one to be like, ‘Oh you should try running (too).’”
It also fulfills a small childhood dream of the 18-year-old Grater, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native who will return to her home state for college.
The decision was a no-brainer for Grater.
“As far as me being able to do all three — keeping my grades up with sports — I kind-of always done that throughout middle school and high school,” Grater said. “I always ran and swam. I couldn’t imagine doing one without the other. I really think they go well together, and I love them.”
Grater, boasting a 4.0 unweighted GPA as the top student in her graduating class at Chestatee was originally eyed the much larger DI schools like Georgia, Tulane and University of North Carolina-Asheville, before even considering a more intimate setting. But upon her visit at Tampa on Oct. 26, the campus, location, coaching staff and team members were all selling points.
“You get that feeling where you just know that place is for you,” said Grater.
Of course, the best part of it all — besides the school being just a 15-minute shot from the beach — was what she found out toward the end of her visit. Tampa cross country/track coach Jarrett Slaven also expressed interest to meet during Grater’s campus tour at the University. Slaven convinced Grater her talents would be of great value to the cross country program.
Grater said she previously devoted more time to swimming, while saving herself for major team events in cross country for 2017. And despite seeing a positive change in her physique — increased muscle mass — with the absence of running, that void became increasingly apparent for Grater.
Then Tampa gave her the sign she needed to rethink her motive.
“It was kind-of a good reassurance I should do both, because I know that it helps me be good, and do my best in both sports,” she said. “If you love it enough, then it doesn’t seem like work, you know?”
After all, the 18-year-old has shown the two talents together equals a ton of accolades.
The Spartans gain a two-time cross country Hall County champion with individual wins in her freshman and junior seasons. Swimming for club (Lanier Aquatics) and high school teams, she holds College Swimming’s 17th-ranked swimmer in the state. In addition to qualifying for the GHSA state meets in each of her four years, she took home the bronze in the 500 freestyle during the Class A-5A championship meet as a junior.
On Sept. 26, Grater led the Chestatee girls to a second-place mark at the Hall County Championship meet, placing fifth individually. And five months prior at the GA ABSC Northeastern Divisionals (March) she was a six-time finalist while raking in top-three honors in the 200 individual medley (second) and 200-yard butterfly (third).
Grater’s toughness and work ethic are perhaps her finest traits, according to longtime Chestatee assistant Wes Wessley when balancing school and athletics. When she’s not engaging in the 5,000-yard marathon sessions to improve endurance in the pool, she’s lifting weights and swinging kettlebells at Brenau’s dry land workouts, headed by Golden Tigers strength coach Jack Haire. Athletes in Haire’s hour-long workout regimen exercise core, flexibility and strength-training before jumping in the pool for 21/2 hours at the day’s end. It helps Grater better prepare for the shorter, faster swim events.
And there’s no limits. During a team offseason session at Piedmont college two summers prior, Wessley said Grater suffered harsh burns on the palms of her hands while walking the length of the artificial turf lacrosse fields in a wheelbarrow race. She finished the race, of course, before Wessley had to rush her to a nearby doctor.
“Lindsey is tough. She is mentally strong, focused,” said Haire, who works with Grater three times a week. As a former collegiate swimmer for the University of Georgia in the 1970s, Haire has seen many bright talents from Lanier Aquatics utilize his workouts and move on to successful swimming careers beyond high school. Grater is right there with them.
“Most of these kids have goals, and a lot of them is to swim in college,” the eighth-year Brenau coach said. “When she comes in, it’s all business with Lindsey.”
Wessley agrees the cross-training is beneficial for Grater in cross country, where runners would often spend a 2-21/2 trek alone on the trail, no coaching or medical attention.
“She has the work ethic, and despite the fact that sometimes she would spent until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning on homework — and I could see that, she would be dragging a little bit during practice — she was always able to raise the level when it came to competition,” Wessley added.
Grater credits her resiliency and drive to her three brothers, oldest brother Luke (20) and 13-year-old twins Gavin and Garrett. Anything around the house is a challenge between the four siblings most days.
“Heaven forbid, when we play a card game or something, it’s always a competition,” laughed Grater. “That’s just part of who I am. I guess I am just really-really competitive.”
Down the road, Grater eyes a possible venture into Triathlons.
For now, her focus remains on her chosen crafts while working toward a degree in biochemistry.