No matter how you say it, Grau is a winner in the pool

Mick Granger Courier staff

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When Western Illinois swimmer Jamie Grau travels with her team to compete at away meets, she can’t help but notice when opposing announcers have difficulty pronouncing her name.

It seems that announcers have a habit of taking her last name – which rhymes with “how” – and articulating it in such a way that the end result sounds like something like a snarling wolf.

Instead of correcting the mistake, the senior from Morrison, Ill. just smiles and shifts her focus to the pool, a place where she is called a winner no matter how anyone says “Grau.”

While Grau may not mind opposing teams’ announcers flubbing her name, Western head coach Greg Naumann, on the other hand, loves to kid his star swimmer about it.

“The one thing she absolutely hates – but it’s the one thing that gets her up and going – is basically meowing at her like a cat,” Naumann said. “(At) one of the meets, they were pronouncing her name horribly and it sounded more like a growl. Now I do that to get her to throw down.”

Grau, who is pursuing a degree in exercise science, is among one of the top performers for the Leatherneck women’s team this season, along with Shawn Fitzpatrick, Mary Betsworth and Julie Rassmussen. A leader in the pool as well as out of it, Grau has been putting in the time and effort to ensure that her last NCAA season is her best one yet.

Grau, who focuses on events such as the 50, 100, and 200-yard breaststroke as well as the 200 freestyle relay and the 400 medley relay teams, has been racking up wins, earning impressive accolades and turning heads.

Not only did Grau earn Summit League Athlete of the Week (Dec. 17), she also was selected to the 2011 Summit League Winter/Spring Academic All-League team.

Grau was a member of the 400-yard medley relay team that currently holds the Western school record in that event (3:46.48), and also ranks sixth all-time in Leathernecks history for both the 200-yard breaststroke (2:27.91) and the 200-yard medley relay (1:48.98).

This year alone, Grau has piled up several wins against tough competition. Grau placed first in the 50 and 100-yard breaststroke against St. Louis University; secured a 200-yard breaststroke victory over Truman State and South Dakota State; and led the 200 freestyle relay to a win against South Dakota State.

Grau has also piled up a plethora of second-place finishes this season, most recently against Wisconsin-Green Bay last Thursday Brophy Pool. That night, Grau took home runner-up honors in the 100 breaststroke and the 200 free relay team.

“Jamie has been one of our anchors on the women’s side,” Naumann said. “She’s been able to step up and just kind of power through anything. No matter what meet we’ve been at, she’s been pretty consistent and hasn’t faltered a whole lot.”

Grau began competitive swimming as a 7-year-old, and credits her grandparents for getting her involved in the sport.

“My grandparents made me try every sport, to see what I liked,” Grau said.

“They let me do what I wanted. They supported in me everything that I did and I am really thankful for that. My grandparents’ support has gotten me to where I am today.”

Grau, a four-year letter winner at Morrison (Ill.) High School, qualified for the state tournament her freshman and sophomore years. By the start of her senior season, the talented swimmer was already setting her sights on Division I swimming.

“Beginning of my senior year, I knew that I had great expectations for myself and I knew I wanted to push myself as far as I could,” Grau said.

Grau said she envisioned herself at Western, and knew it was an environment that would be conducive to her success. “I really liked the school, and knew they had a really good swimming program,” Grau said. “I knew I wanted to be a Division I athlete, so I felt like Western was a great fit for me.”

Grau, now finishing her last season as a Leatherneck swimmer, said she is starting to reflect on her time at Western. “The past four years have taught me a lot,” Grau said. “I am going to miss the meets, the competitive nature that goes along with those. Also, having our team as a big family and the friends I’ve made from the team.”

Grau, along with her teammates, still have a few more chances to make their mark this season. The Leathernecks have a home meet against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday, Jan. 28, an away meet at Iowa (Feb. 4), and a quad at Monmouth College (Feb. 5) before the Summit League Championships (Feb. 15-18) in Rochester, Mich.





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