Badminton: York, Torrie Graham aiming for big finish
Updated: April 23, 2012 8:10PM
Most athletes have fun when they win, but York senior Torrie Graham wins because she has fun.
That’s how the two-sport athlete explains the success she has had during an impressive high school career that will wrap up next month at the state badminton finals in Charleston.
“I think I’m pretty good at it just because I enjoy doing it, so I always push myself to get better,” Graham said. “It’s motivation because it’s fun. I play to have fun, so I don’t get super-intense about it.”
Graham was a four-time state doubles qualifier in tennis with three different partners, earning a top-16 finish last fall with Gabby Riek. That allowed York to tie for eighth, its highest finish in 30 years.
A similar situation is developing in badminton, with Graham expected to qualify for state in singles for the third time. With Graham and four other returning state qualifiers, including junior singles player Georgia Schneider, the Dukes are gunning for their first top-10 finish since 1982, when they took second.
“Definitely the goal is top 10 this year and we have such a strong team,” Graham said. “We still have [younger] players who will keep the team going next year, too, so even if we don’t get it this year there’s still hope for next year.”
But Graham is the linchpin for the Dukes. After losing in the third round last year to eventual state champion Mari Georgiadis of New Trier, she has upgraded her game and is 22-2, losing only to Hinsdale South’s Andrea McNally and Bradley-Bourbonnais’ Susan Oo this season.
“She has a reputation now,” York coach Nicole Young said. “People walk in our gym and say, ‘Ah, God, we’ve got to play Torrie again?’ I just had a coach email me about an invite. He goes, ‘Don’t bring Torrie with you, so we have a chance to win.’”
Tall and lanky, Graham is a power player who uses her tennis experience to patrol the court and her intelligence to fool opponents with deceptive shots.
But the biggest factor in Graham’s improvement is her experience. She was so nervous as a sophomore that she was shaking on the court at state, but now that she’s been there twice, she relishes the atmosphere.
“Almost everybody that you meet in badminton is so nice, especially our team,” Graham said. “In tennis, if you talk to people a lot of times they’re really mean and they’re totally serious.
“But in badminton, last year I played the girl who won state and she was so nice. There’s some people on other teams who I’m Facebook friends with and at meets we’ll sit next to each other and cheer our teams on.”
Graham, who has a 4.7 GPA on a 4.0 scale, will not play a sport in college, instead enrolling in the honors program at Arizona State, where she plans to study electrical engineering.
Though she is considered to be a state-title contender, she won’t define herself by wins or losses.
“I thought about [winning state] but really my goal this year is a successful finish,” Graham said. “I think giving everything I have in that last match, as long as I do that, it will have been completely worth it, every year, every moment.”