As part of a dual-enrollment application to Georgia Tech, Norcross High student Luke Gries had to take the ACT test last year to prove his readiness for college-level work. The results showed he was more than ready: Gries aced the exam with a perfect score of 36. And he wasn’t shy about letting his teammates on the school’s water polo team know it.
“Yeah, I bragged about it,” he admitted.
So when his teammate, Sam Carton, learned that he, too, had landed a perfect ACT score, it was time for some backlash bragging.
“After I received my scores, I sent them out to a group chat,” said Carton. “Then Luke posted his scores, too, and it was kind of funny. But it was also cool to celebrate with our team.”
Gries, now a junior from Peachtree Corners, and Carton, a senior from Norcross, are among an elite number of students who pull off the impressive feat of a perfect score on the test used by many colleges and universities to determine academic eligibility. It puts the two in the top 1 percent of test-takers, according to the College Board.
For Carton, the ACT was a better reflection of his work than the SAT.
“The ACT has four sections – math, reading, English language and science – and I liked the smaller sections that move at a quicker pace,” he said. “And I definitely liked having a science section.”
While it’s uncommon to have two perfect scorers at the same school, the students share another unusual connection: They were part of the water polo team that recently took top honors at the state championships.
“I’d never heard of the sport before I got to high school,” admits Carton. “But I found a lot of my friends were doing it. I joined four years ago and fell in love with it. We’ve built a great community around the team.”
After a long day at school, Carton and Gries spend hours practicing in the pool at the West Gwinnett Park Aquatic Center.
“Actually, playing water polo after school is a nice change of pace,” said Carton. “It’s a lot of fun in a day that’s otherwise a lot of work.”
Being part of the top team may have helped him with his studies, says Gries.
“It makes me focus on time management,” he said. “I always try to get my work done before practices that last at least two hours every day. Sometimes it’s been hard to do all my homework and make practice, but I’ve managed to be pretty successful at it.”
Norcross High Principal Will Bishop sees a connection between the students’ academic achievements and their sport.
“They are both excellent students and take some of the most academically challenging classes on our campus,” he said. “I believe the drive that propels them in the classroom has also led to their success in the pool.”
The athletic and academic success may help Gries meet his next goal: going to Stanford University. “I’d like to do something in the field of math, but physics and engineering are also interesting to me,” he said.
Carton is applying to colleges now and hopes to study economics or political science. “I’m also interested in philosophy and economics, so I’ looking into schools that offer that,” he said. “But whether I have the opportunity to play water polo on a team or just for fun, I do hope to continue playing in college.”
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