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Lake Forest Wall of Fame honoree Sarah Spain talks sports, #MeToo movement

Lake Forest Wall of Fame honoree Sarah Spain talks sports, #MeToo movement
Sarah Spain and Matt Grevers were inducted into the Lake Forest High School Wall of Fame on April 20. (Daniel I. Dorfman / Pioneer Press)

There have been many national accolades for Sarah Spain and Matt Grevers through the years, but the honor was local last month when they were inducted into the Lake Forest High School Wall of Fame.

Joined by family, friends and their respective spouses, Spain, a member of the LFHS class of 1998 who today is an ESPN broadcaster and Grevers, a four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer and 2003 graduate, returned to their high school April 20 for a day as school officials hailed their achievements through the course of the day.

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"Both of our inductees today really embody our vision as a school," LFHS Principal Chala Holland told a group of family, friends and staff members at the morning reception. "It is so inspiring for all of our adults in the building and our students more specifically to see models and examples of excellence coming right out of this school."

She is now broadcasting sports, but back at LFHS, Spain recalled competing for the school's basketball, track and field, and hockey teams.

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"I loved playing field hockey right on the front lawn," Spain said. "That was a cool showcase of our sport."

Spain talked of her time in the LFHS band and chorus, said she loved going to classes and noted a diverse group of friends in her formative years.

"Growing up in a place that is as pretty as this is with the rigorous academic standards and high expectations really set me up for success in the future," she said.

Upon graduating from LFHS, Spain went to Cornell University where she would receive several academic and athletic awards. Spain noted she was always being interested in entertainment – which included participating in the LFHS talent show – so she moved to Los Angeles to try her hand at comedy and acting after college graduation.

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It was there where she got a job at Fox Sports and she realized her athletic past would be a benefit for her.

"I realized I should have been doing sports all along," Spain said. "There just haven't been that many women on camera for me to look up to so it didn't seem like an option."

Now Spain may be seen as a role model to the next generation of female broadcasters.

"Sarah has a very strong background empowering young women who want to follow their dreams," noted Kathryn Begley, the co-chairwoman of the Alumni Wall of Fame Selection Committee.

Yet as her career progressed, Spain said she received negative feedback because of her gender and two years ago, Spain and Julie DiCaro of WSCR Radio/The Score participated in a public service campaign where men read to their face some of the vicious tweets the two broadcasters had seen directed toward them.

The growth of the #MeToo movement since the PSA debut has Spain reflecting on its impact.

"I certainly wouldn't say we caused the #MeToo movement but it was part of a groundswell of people speaking up and fighting back against things that had been accepted for so long and we think it is OK and it is impossible to fight," Spain said. "I am of the opinion that we have to have honest conversations about this stuff in order for us to address it as a problem and then to change it."

Also honored by LFHS was Grevers, a four-time Olympic Gold Medalist, who won the individual 100-meter backstroke at the 2012 London Olympics.

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Now living in Tucson, Ariz., Grevers, reminiscing on his LFHS career, where he achieved three state records and was a big part in the team's 2003 state title, setting the stage for a run that ultimately landed him in the Olympics.

"Realizing I was one of the youngest there if I keep on this trajectory, I should make the team," he said. "Swimming was a focus for me when I was young to hopefully propel me into other things."

Grevers excelled at LFHS and took his swimming ability to Northwestern University where he was a 27-time All American, winning four NCAA titles along the way.

In 2008, Grevers qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing where he won two gold medals as members of two relay teams and grabbed a silver medal in the 100-meter backstroke. Four years later at the London Olympics, Grevers scored gold.

"That was a goal of mine since I was 10 that got me out of bed when I was tired and kept me up when I was tired. It made me help me made the right decisions," he recalled of that moment.

His LFHS coach, Lea Maurer, recognized Grevers had some exceptional talent at a young age. She was familiar with the Grevers clan as she had previously coached his older siblings.

"I knew that he came from a tremendous family and we were excited about his potential," said Maurer, the LFHS swim coach from 1995-2005. "He loves the sport and that passion for the practices and the day to day grind was definitely compelling."

Maurer was also compelled with his leadership.

"Matt as a teammate believed so much in his teammates that they had no choice but to believe in themselves and that was really a game changer for us culturally," she recalled.

After not making the 2016 Olympic team, Grevers rebounded last year winning medals at the World Championships and there are hopes for representing the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in two years, even as he would be 35 at the time.

"The trajectory for 2020 is still good," he said.

As he trains, the 6-foot-8 Grevers has entered the residential real estate business and married his wife, Annie, with whom he has a 17-month-old daughter, Skylar.

He said he looks back very fondly on his days at LFHS, particularly the rapport with those guiding him in the pool.

"The friendships that were made and the relationships with my coaches," Grevers said of what sticks out to him. "It is a pretty cool feeling."

Daniel I. Dorfman is a freelancer.

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