Sleep. Zach Strittmatter admits he doesn't get very much of it. It is one of the sacrifices the Batavia senior must make to achieve in the classroom and be involved in sports and other extra-curricular activities.
To him, it's all about participation, commitment and excellence.
"I've lost a lot of sleep over the last four years," he said. "I try to spread myself out and not focus on one thing too much. It's all about time management. I can't waste time if I have football or basketball practice and hours of homework to do."
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Strittmatter hasn't got any time to waste. He ranks No. 1 in his class of 438 students, has a 4.28 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale and scored 33 on his ACT. He takes more honors and Advance Placement (AP) courses than any Batavia student in at least 10 years. This semester, his courses are AP government, AP physics, AP chemistry and AP calculus II.
He will attend Washington University in St. Louis to major in chemistry and play football. He wants to get into the medical field. He dreams of discovering treatment for eating disorders. He wants to be a medial researcher for diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's.
As a 6-foot-4, 195-pound wide receiver, he was a three-year starter on teams that won 26 of 33 games, including 21-2 in 2011 and 2012. He was team captain and caught 52 passes for 796 yards and a school-record 13 touchdowns as a senior. He was a Class 7A All-State selection, unanimous choice as the Upstate Eight Conference's offensive player of the year and Academic All-State.
But he also must make time for his public service commitment. Since 2008, he has been a member of Alex's Army, named for a former classmate who died of cancer. With a group of his best friends, Strittmatter raises money for cancer research and the American Cancer Society.
His commitment to Alex's Army won't end when he leaves for college. He and his friends plan to continue to raise money, largely through bake sales, for the charity. At Washington University, he plans to do volunteer work at the campus hospital. And he is thinking of getting involved in student government.
"I'm looking forward to college. I'm very excited about the opportunities that Washington University will provide me," he said. "I want to continue to do things. I know I have been blessed with talents and an amazing life that my parents have provided for me. I know I have to give back to people who are less fortunate, to charities and organizations that need volunteers."
And he still found time to go to the prom.
"I still have a pretty good social life," Strittmatter said. "I've got to find time to set aside for schoolwork, football and spend time with my friends. You have to make a distinction when you are with your friends, you forget about football and homework. And when you are playing football, you forget about your friends and homework. And when you are doing your homework, you forget about football and your friends."
Academics always have been stressed in the Strittmatter family. His mother once was a teacher. His older brother was a straight-A student in high school and currently attends University of Wisconsin-Madison.
"My brother was motivation for me to keep straight A's," Zach said. "That's the way it always has been in our house. We are expected to do well and be good people. I always worked as hard as I can in class."
Even when he didn't like the class. As a freshman, he took an elective in video broadcasting to fill out his schedule.
"I didn't love it. It was tough. I wasn't invested in it," he said. "But I worked hard at it and I got an A. One of my commercials was put up for an award and won third place. It shows no matter what I am doing, I am going to put my best foot forward and try as hard as I can. I've always been that way."
So it shouldn't come as a surprise that he recently was one of three recipients of the National Football Foundation-Chicago Metro Chapter's Scholar-Athlete Award and Scholarship. The others were Connor O'Brien of Lemont and Nick Colangelo of Lincoln-Way East.
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"Zach is the type of person that I hope my children grow up to be one day," said Batavia football coach Dennis Piron. "He is one of the finest student-athletes that I have had the pleasure of coaching and teaching in my 20 years at Batavia High School. He has been a shining example of what a team captain and All-State football player should represent. He demonstrates what Bulldog Pride is all about."
As he prepares for college, however, Strittmatter admits he is beginning to fall victim to senioritis, that malaise that often affects seniors as they look ahead to graduation. And he isn't looking forward to the day he can't play football any longer.
"Basketball was my first love as a kid. I couldn't play football because I was too young," he said. "I always was the tall kid in my class but I realized I am not 6-foot-8 and won't play in the NBA. Football turned out to be my favorite sport.
"I love basketball. Ten of my best friends are on the varsity basketball team. But my sophomore season wasn't so great so it occurred to me that, if I worked hard, I could go to college to play football. Playing football in college would be amazing. It is hard to see my life without a sport right now. But in four years I will have to face that reality."
From all accounts, it looks as though he won't have any trouble making the adjustment.