North Jersey Female Athlete of the Week Relishes the Full HS Swimming Experience

Grace Lee is thrilled to finally have the full high school swimming experience. His competition may feel differently.

The Northern Highlands sophomore set the 100 free school record last Thursday and won all four of her races against Demarest. She had no idea she had passed Madeline Wolf’s historic mark until someone told her moments after the race.

What made her even better was having her brother Taite – a senior from the Highlanders – on the pool deck with her. Due to strict capacity limits, the men’s team swam at different times in almost all competitions last season.

“The Demarest meeting was the second time he’s been here with me,” Lee said. “It was a lot more fun than last year, certainly because everyone was there. It was great that the whole team was there.”

Lee found his calling the same way so many other swimmers did.

Grace Lee of Northern Highlands, female athlete of the week

Her parents enrolled her in lessons for safety, then realized how excited she would be to be in the water. In no time, the Allendale native turned that passion into a club career with the Wyckoff Sharks nearby.

She loved the satisfaction of wasting time and getting out of the pool after a good run.

“I come with a good frame of mind,” Lee said. “I try to be as positive as possible. No matter what happens, I know I did my best.”

Swimmers can be particularly goal-oriented, but Lee said her goal is to embrace the experiences that were taken away from her last year.

For one thing, she couldn’t swim in front of fans or take part in playoff events with Northern Highlands. She also had to adapt to a constantly changing schedule and masks on the pool deck.

When Lee found herself in a tight relay race, the volume was missing a few decibels.

“The virtual meetings were very calm,” Lee said. “It was almost awkward in a way. It’s a lot more fun.”

Lee enters the year as a second-ranked 10th student in the state of New Jersey. She is already one of the top scorers on North Jersey’s top public school team. In fact, Lee has never lost a race in a red and black Highlander.

Despite that speed, Lee said the school record was not on her radar when she hit the wall in 53.8 seconds. That’s about half a second faster than the winning time in the Bergen County Champions’ last meeting.

“It was very good,” Lee said. “I was very excited and surprised that I was able to (get the record). I didn’t think I would be able to do it.”

Afterward, Lee had two more reasons to celebrate as the Highlanders swept Demarest in the season opener tag team race. A breaststroke victory for Taite Lee helped the Highlander boys to a narrow seven-point victory.

“I want the best for him, so I’m getting nervous,” Lee said.

“It’s more exciting now that I can watch too and he’s there to watch me.”

Grace lee

Sport: To swim

The school: Northern Highlands

To classify: Second year. Age: 16

Achievement: Lee set the Northern Highlands school record in the 100 freestyle finishing the race in 53.8 seconds. She also placed first in the 200 freestyle and led two stints to victory in Thursday’s 98-72 victory over Demarest.

This article originally appeared on Bergen Record Female Athlete of Week: Grace Lee, Northern Highlands

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