Beauty queen, scholar athlete, West Point candidate

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There are many high school students who try to be as well rounded as possible.

Then there’s Grace Lederer.

A senior at Wildwood Catholic High School, Lederer takes the definition of “well rounded” and takes it to a ridiculously high level.

Without question one of the top female athletes in school history, Lederer is much more than a jock. She’s a tireless volunteer, a distinguished student, a noble advocate for her school and a beauty queen.

Recently, the Cape-Atlantic League named Lederer – a cross country, swimming and spring track standout and honor student – as its National Conference female scholar-athlete for the 2012-13 scholastic year.

“I was blown away,” Lederer said of her reaction after being notified of the award. “I had no idea that one was coming.”

Lederer will graduate from Wildwood Catholic with 12 varsity letters. She’s been named a CAL all-star numerous times in all three of her sports. She’ll go down as one of the best female distance runners and swimmers in school history by the time she’s finished this June. She was named the school’s Most Valuable Female Athlete last spring as a junior, an extremely rare feat for an underclassman.

But the athletic accomplishments only tell part of the story. Lederer carries a 4.3 grade point average while handling a full AP or honors class load and is ranked second academically in the senior class. She has already scored a combined 1,930 on the three-part SAT.

Also at Wildwood Catholic, Lederer is a member of the National Honor Society, the International Club and the Art Club, among other activities. A few years ago, when the Camden diocese nearly closed the school, Lederer became heavily involved in the successful Save Wildwood Catholic campaign.

Outside of Wildwood Catholic, Lederer is involved with the American Legion and the Rotary Club and works part-time as a hostess at a North Wildwood restaurant. For the past two summers, she’s also been a member of the Wildwood Crest Beach Patrol. There are other volunteer and service activities mixed in as well.

In the summer of 2011, Lederer also won the Miss North Wildwood contest and served in that capacity for a year. Last July, she was named Queen Oceana, a post she still holds.

“It’s almost hard to even believe what she does is possible,” Wildwood Catholic High School athletic director Sal Zuccarello said. “But we see her every day and when you get around her you can understand how she makes it possible. You think, ‘How can one person have enough hours in a day to do all the things she’s done last four years?’ But for her it’s all about time management and being focused and dedicated and having a family that supports her in everything that she’s doing.”

For Lederer, being involved comes through having interest in a variety of activities.

“I just like to do everything I’m interested in,” she said modestly. “I like being involved.”

All the sports and all the activities and volunteerism, plus her studies, can take its toll. But Lederer, 18, a resident of North Wildwood, enjoys her busy schedule.

“It never ends but I can’t imagine it any other way,” she said. “I swam my entire life for USA swimming year-round and then toward the end of my eighth-grade year I was friends with the Wuko girls (Tara and Rachel, her former teammates) and they got me to join cross country.

“I’ve always been a year-round athlete because I enjoy it. The seasons usually overlap but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It helps keep me focused in school and it’s a lot of fun. I really enjoy being on a team with my good friends. You can make such good friends being on sports teams.

“I do it because it’s fun for me. I enjoy running and swimming the most and I really like that those are lifelong sports. I can still be doing them when I’m 50 or 60 years old.”

Not surprisingly, Lederer has numerous colleges vying for her services. She has a combined academic/athletic full scholarship offer from St. Leo’s University, near Tampa, Fla., and also has academic and/or athletic scholarship offers of varying levels from Fordham University, the College of Charleston, Elon College and the University of Maryland.

But Lederer’s first choice is to earn an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She recently received a congressional nomination to the academy from U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo and is awaiting word from West Point on her application.

“My first choice is West Point,” said Lederer, who participated in a seven-day leadership program there last summer.

Lederer has also applied for the ROTC program at each of the other schools on her wish list.

“Either way, I’ll be commissioned as a second lieutenant and get active duty when I’m finished school,” she said.

If accepted to West Point, Lederer said she plans to major in Arabic and international relations. If she attends her second choice, which at this point is St. Leo’s, she said she’ll study accounting and global studies and will also take classes in Arabic at the University of South Florida.

It’s pretty safe to say, however, that Lederer, due to her background, has an excellent opportunity to do well no matter which route she takes.

“I wish we could clone her and make more of her,” Zuccarello said. “She is the product that Wildwood Catholic is trying to produce in every single one of our students. She’s the hardest-working person in our entire athletic program. And that goes for everything she does.”

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