During the pandemic, Kenyon seniors who play a spring sport will be unable to compete for a final season, or be fully recognized for team contributions and individual accomplishments. At the Collegian, we hope to do our part in giving these seniors an opportunity to be celebrated for their athletic accomplishments and to reflect on their personal experiences. Among these seniors is softball player Lauren Graf.
When Lauren Graf ’20 began learning how to throw and hit a softball with her family in second grade, she couldn’t wait to play on a team so she could learn more about the game and engage with others who loved it too.
As Graf grew to adore the game, she quickly became just as enthralled with the feelings of community and encouragement that came with being part of a team. Ultimately, that is part of what drew her to Kenyon College. “You’re not just another number at Kenyon,” Graf said. “The faculty and staff truly care about you as a person and want to see you succeed in every aspect,” Graf told the Collegian. “Playing softball at Kenyon reminded me why I love the game. My coaches and teammates always created such a fun atmosphere and it always reminded me of how lucky I was to have the opportunity [to be on the team].”
Since arriving at Kenyon in 2017, Graf has primarily played second base and outfield. She completed her first year with a .943 fielding percentage, solidifying her role on the team as a strong defensive player. She went on to show a strong work ethic over the years, which prompted significant improvements: Graf began her Kenyon softball career with a .269 batting average, and wrapped up the abbreviated 2020 season batting .364. She also increased her on-base percentage from .293 to .405 in the span of one season from her first to second year.
In addition to these personal feats, the softball team as a whole took important strides during Graf’s time at Kenyon, both on and off the field. Last year, the team made the NCAC tournament for the first time since 2013. In the fall 2019 semester, the team maintained an impressive 3.49 GPA. For Graf, a neuroscience major with a concentration in scientific computing, a critical part of her Kenyon experience was being challenged in the classroom. “My courses in computer science have posed some of my greatest challenges at Kenyon. They forced me to think about problems in a new way,” she said.
Whether Graf and her teammates were spending time on the softball field or strolling together down Middle Path, her fondest memories are of the times she spent with her friends. She recounted one especially vivid memory: “I had just left Peirce [Dining Hall] and was walking on Middle Path with some of the softball players. The setting sun illuminated the campus in golden light. It took my breath away and in that moment I knew that Kenyon was where I was supposed to be.”
Though Graf, like all of this year’s seniors, has had to grapple with an unexpected and unconventional ending to her season, she will be remembered and celebrated for her contributions to the Kenyon community, athletic and otherwise.
Graf is grateful for everything Kenyon has offered her. She wants to thank Kenyon for providing her with such special opportunities, which she is certain she wouldn’t find anywhere but on the Hill.
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