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Strittmatter humbled by latest honor
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Columnist

Above: Batavia senior Zach Strittmatter, pictured with his football coach Dennis Piron, was presented a Student-Athlete Award by the National Football Foundation Chicago Metro Chapter on Monday. The award honored Strittmatter for both his football skills and also his excellence in the classroom and in the community. Below: Senior Michael Barrowclift, pictured at the Lyons sectional, became St. Francis’ first male swimmer to qualify for the state finals.



Senior Michael Barrowclift, pictured at the Lyons sectional, became St. Francis’ first male swimmer to qualify for the state finals.


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Published: 2/21/20 9:26 PM

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Zach Strittmatter said 45-minute naps are the key.

How else could the Batavia senior have the time to do all he does, at such a high level?

On Monday Strittmatter was presented a Student-Athlete Award, along with Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Colangelo and Lemont’s Connor O’Brien, at the National Football Foundation Chicago Metro Chapter’s awards ceremony in Westchester. Other names familiar to prep football fans were “Community Champions” Jack Petrando of St. Francis and Mark Gorogianis of Montini.

“It was very humbling to be honored with these amazing kids that have amazing GPAs and do tons of service work,” Strittmatter said. “Wow, to even be put in the same room as these kids was just awesome.”

These kids would undoubtedly say the same thing about Strittmatter, a 6-foot-4 receiver and Bulldogs basketball forward headed to play football at noted brainiac institution Washington University in St. Louis.

As well as earning Illinois High School Football Coaches Association Class 7A All-State (and Academic All-State) honors in football after setting a Batavia record with 13 touchdown catches last season, his third as a starter, Strittmatter is No. 1 academically in his senior class of 463 students with a 4.28 grade-point average.

The person who nominated him for the NFF award, Batavia football coach Dennis Piron, said Strittmatter has taken more Advanced Placement or honors classes than any Batavia student in more than a decade. A National Honor Society and Spanish National Honor Society member, Strittmatter carries seven AP/honors classes out of the eight he’s taking this trimester, the eighth being physical education.

Part of his motivation stemmed from his older brother, Brady, a 2011 graduate now studying at Wisconsin.

“I think he gave me my competitive spirit, because we were on the same varsity basketball team for one year and he would always challenge me in the driveway before we were even on the same team,” Zach said. “He did very well in school and I think I wanted to follow in his footsteps. He got straight-As all through high school and I thought if he did it I’d certainly have to do it, too.”

One of the things closest to his heart is his work for “Alex’s Army,” an American Cancer Society fundraiser named in honor of the late Alex Kintz, who would have been part of Batavia’s Class of 2013 had he not passed away in the eighth grade.

“It was tough for us. He was a very close friend,” Strittmatter said.

“I want to be involved with my school and community, and that’s how I’ve been raised,” he said. “I live in a great town with a great school and great friends, and I feel it’s my duty to give back what I’ve been given. I’m very blessed, and I feel I should give back my time and my talents and everything I’ve been given.”

He’s considering studying chemistry with an eye toward medicine. In a perfect world, he’d discover a way to effectively “cure” eating disorders.

“It’s crazy, I know, but it’s something that’s a goal of mine, I guess, and hopefully I can achieve that,” he said.

Given Strittmatter’s track record it’d be hard to bet against him.

He’s No. 1

As a freshman spectator at the boys state swimming meet years ago, St. Francis’ Michael Barrowclift experienced the energy pouring from the stands. He laid out a goal.

“Not sitting in the stands,” he said.

Nothing against the state meet, which owns a reputation as among, if not the most exciting championship competitions in Illinois prep sports. the St. Charles resident had bigger plans.

“I want to be in this meet,” he remembers thinking.

Mission accomplished for both Barrowclift and his school. Saturday at the Lyons Twp. sectional Barrowclift, now a senior, became St. Francis’ first boy to advance to the state finals, in the program’s fifth year. His time of 21.84 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle came in below the state cut of 21.91 and also re-established his own school record in the event.

“It’s very exciting, but I know that I can’t let anything like that get mentally in my head because I’ll choke and I know I just won’t swim well,” he said.

To swim for St. Francis is to encounter a certain amount of hardship. The private school in Wheaton does not have a pool, leaving the team to practice at a variety of venues. St. Francis has swum at Naperville North, at the Vaughan Athletic Center in Aurora, where Barrowclift was this week, and the main practice site this year, Central Park Athletic Club in Lisle. The pool has no blocks, is less than 4 feet deep and is only 20 yards long.

“Some practices you get a little dizzy, there’s a few extra turns,” Barrowclift said. “We made do with what we had.”

Nomadic practice sessions were much the same as when older brother Marc Barrowclift swam for St. Francis before graduating in 2011. (Sister Aimee also was in the pool, a St. Charles North record-setting diver who graduated in 2006.)

Asked how he felt achieving something his brother did not, Michael Barrowclift said it was a matter of different priorities. After that freshman season, Michael felt the drive to qualify as an individual. He believed his brother’s main goal was to “have fun and help our relays.”

In either case, Michael said, “it was always a goal, both of ours, to reach our potential.”

Michael’s still in the process of discovering that. He’d like to slice “a couple tenths” of a second off his sectional time, but at New Trier on Friday is not going to sabotage himself in the process.

“I’m going to the state meet to kind of have fun, see what I can do,” he said. “I’m not going to put any unnecessary stress on myself. I made my goal and whatever happens, happens.”