Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

Grace Lehto of Eaton Rapids is “doing high school to the max” according to her mother, Kelly. Recently selected as Eaton Rapids High School’s homecoming queen, Grace is a star player in three sports — softball, volleyball and basketball. But she’s also a student with a 4.16 GPA, taking AP (advanced placement) classes. She has recently been accepted into Central Michigan University on a full scholarship for the fall of 2020. She visited 17 schools in order to make the right decision for her future.
Central offers her the opportunity to be a Division 1 pitcher, Grace explained.
“CMU girls seemed like small-town girls, like me,” Grace said. “I really liked Penn State when I visited there, but Central just felt more like me than Penn State.”
Her CMU scholarship is a ‘full-ride’ and covers her tuition, room and board and books. Grace said she plans to study biochemistry and eventually head to medical school, as she aspires to be an orthopedic surgeon.
She’s excited about attending college, but she said it is somewhat bittersweet leaving her Eaton Rapids team.
“We all have heart; we’re competitive but close and all push each other,” she said. “I couldn’t ask for a better class.
Eaton Rapids softball coach Scott Warriner had ample praise for Grace’s skills.
“We are all very proud of the scholarship offer Grace has received from CMU,” Warriner said. “She has had an outstanding career at ERHS as not only a great pitcher but also as an outstanding hitter.”
Warriner added he expects more accomplishments in the future.
“Grace is also an excellent student and a very dedicated community servant,” he said. “We are expecting even greater accomplishments this spring during her senior year.
“Our team knows they can always count on her for tremendous leadership and encouragement for every member of the team.”
Ten-year-old Fairah Raad, who pitches for the Lady ‘Hounds 10U and has had Lehto coach her in pitching, said Grace is a great coach.
“She taught me new things to become a good pitcher like her,” Fairah said.
Danielle Raad, Fairah’s mother, also expressed appreciation for Lehto.
“It changed my daughter’s confidence, having Grace coach her in pitching — plus she learned a new pitch,” Danielle Raad said. “Fairah is hoping to end up with an athletic career just like Grace, she told me.
“A lot of the young girls like my daughters Fairah and Giselle look up to her and other players. They’ve been pretty inspiring the last couple of years.”
“I was raised on the field,” Grace said, to explain her passion for softball. “I’ve been a softball fan since I was born. I get my drive from my mom.”
Her mother also played softball in high school.
Grace excels at softball and has school records to prove it. She has three more pitching records to break and hopes to do so in the spring, she said. She was captain of the softball team this past year.
She was selected for All State two years, was the Most Improved Player in her freshman year, the Most Valuable in her sophomore and junior years, and her team was undefeated at the Ranney Park tournament in Lansing for the Diamond Classic. As a junior in 2018, she pitched a no-hitter with 18 strike outs at the Diamond Classic.
Grace also tries to give back. She gives pitching lessons in the summer after parents approached her for advice for their young ball players.
As captain of the basketball team, she tries to be very positive so that her teammates stay positive, too, she said.
When one person gets down on themselves, she explained, it can snowball to the whole team, which she doesn’t want to happen.
Grace has other interests aside from sports. She serves as the class president of the student council, is vice president of the National Honor Society, is secretary of the high school’s Interact group and is president of Youth in Government.
Mom Kelly is clearly pleased with her achievements.
“We’re so proud of her,” Kelly said. “She works hard.
“She’s got crazy drive. It’s cool to see what she’s gonna do.”