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High school athletes excel in the classroom with national merit semifinalist honors

Published: Sep. 26, 2021 at 11:08 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - High school athletes Nathan Westhoff and Raina Pfiefer excel at what they do.

What they do, however, is not just on the playing field.

They’re both National Merit Semifinalists, a distinction given to just over 16,000 among about 1.5 million students.

“Growing up, I just always liked to learn,” senior Xavier football player Westoff said.

They earned the distinction after getting excellent scores on the PSAT in their junior year, among approximately the top 1 percent in the country. Pfeifer, a senior Iowa City West volleyball player, said it’s not just natural talent that helps her in the classroom.

“It’s a lot of time management,” Pfeifer said, I’m very type-A. I write everything down color coded, it’s great!”

They were two of 170 student from Iowa to earn the honor. Both are captains of their respective teams, with a lot on to juggle.

“You just have to plan ahead,” Westhoff said on balancing all his work. “Make sure you don’t save everything for the last day.”

Both play multiple sports and are in extracurricular clubs. Pfeifer said it’s not a problem because she loves every activity she does.

“If I don’t love it I’m not gonna put the time and effort into it, and if I do love it I’m gonna make time to do it,” Pfeifer said. “It’s just kind of prioritizing and making sure that you put your time into what you want to be doing.”

Pfeifer said there are lessons to be learned on the court that you can take into the classroom.

“I think one of the words that I’ve grown up with just through sports and through academics is just being gritty.”

She says grittiness is important, whether it’s getting through a pile of homework or a brutal five set match. Applicable to the football field as well.

“In football you learn how to persevere, you learn how to work hard, be tough,” said Westhoff. “I think that definitely carries over a lot to life.”

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