BYRON — Byron High School senior Emily Williams has been playing soccer since the age of 4, and recently, she committed to further her academic and athletic career at Lawrence Technological University, fulfilling a lifelong dream of competing in the sport at the collegiate level.
But if you ask her favorite teacher at Byron, Olivia Lake-LoFiego, Williams’ prowess on the soccer field is far from the only thing that makes her stand out.
“Emily is versatile,” Lake-LoFiego said. “She really does it all, from cross country to wrestling to soccer, to agriscience (where she serves as Byron’s FFA chapter president) to AP calculus to band (having earned a No. 1 rating at the state finals last year for solo ensemble as a saxophone player). There is nothing this child can’t do and can’t do well.”
In addition to the academic coursework, Williams is a three-sport athlete at Byron: She wrestles in addition to running cross country and playing soccer.
The 17-year-old currently has a 3.9 GPA, and she recently completed a course in probability and statistics, and a course in biology via dual-enrollment at Mott Community College.
For Williams, it’s about challenging herself, particularly in math — her favorite subject.
“It’s what I’m best at,” Williams said. “It’s definite answers, compared to English where you have to use more reasoning and thought. Mathematics is more solid numbers where it’s like, ‘You put this in, you get this answer out.’ It makes more sense to me.”
The variety of commitments can make for a hectic schedule, according to Williams, but she focuses on one thing at a time.
“It’s pretty hard sometimes,” Williams said, “but just the fact that I know I have a set schedule to where I’m going to sports and then right after sports I’m going home to work on my homework, it works out.”
When asked to describe Williams, Lake-LoFiego — who has served as not only Williams’ cross county coach, but also as her physics and French teacher at Byron High School — included the words dedicated, hard working and tenacious, among others.
“She is as hard working in the classroom as she is on the field,” Lake-LoFiego said. “She is not afraid to roll up her sleeves — so to speak — and work hard. In fact, I’ve never once seen her shy away from a challenge or hard work, academically or athletically.”
Williams credits Lake-LoFiego for consistently pushing her to do her best in school and in the field of competition. It was that amount of support, she said, that helped give her the confidence to reach out to the coaching staff at Lawrence Tech — a college she was leaning toward academically — to inquire about a spot on the university’s soccer team.
The conversation with university officials was a worthwhile one, according to Williams.
“Lawrence Tech is a type of school where it’s geared more toward engineering and math classes, so if I don’t like the major I’m going into now I can easily transfer into a different major without having to retake classes,” Williams said. “Just the fact that I wanted to go to the college anyway and that they reached right back out to me saying, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have you on the team.’ It just all kind of clicked at once.”
At Lawrence Tech, Williams intends to major in applied mathematics, with an emphasis on actuarial science.
Williams said she’s looking forward to diving into the vast array of statistics and calculations next fall.
As for the feeling of playing soccer for the lady Blue Devils, it’s still very surreal, according to Williams.
“It’s pretty crazy just thinking about it,” she said. “It’s weird to be able to finally do something that I’ve been trying to do my entire life.”