School: Henry Clay High
• Grade: 12th
• Sport: Volleyball
• Academics: Kate has a 4.7 weighted GPA, scored 30 on the ACT and won the Tommy Bell Award. Parents: Gretchen & Arny
Kate Stromberg wasn’t born on a volleyball court – it just seems that way.
The 18-year-old Henry Clay High graduate is this year’s winner of the Tommy Bell Award, honoring the city’s top scholar-athlete.
Kate graduated from The Academy at Henry Clay with a 4.7 weighted GPA, took nine AP classes and scored 30 on the ACT.
In volleyball, Kate was an All-State player who led the Blue Devils to the Regional championship and the State semifinals. She will play college volleyball at Florida Southern, a Division II school.
College is where volleyball began for the Stromberg family. Kate’s parents, Gretchen and Arny, met playing volleyball at the gym at Purdue University, Gretchen’s alma mater.
Arny graduated from Stanford, earned his doctorate from North Carolina, is chairperson of the UK statistics department and, like all the other Strombergs, is an avid volleyball player.
Arny was a researcher at Cornell where Gretchen served as an assistant coach for two years. In Lexington, the two have been pied pipers for youth volleyball while playing in adult leagues for years.
Not surprisingly, the Strombergs have a mini-court in their backyard where their four children learned the game.
Kate began competing in middle school, leading Morton to a second-place finish in the city before she made the Henry Clay varsity as a sophomore.
Kate’s high school career was marked by her versatility – she played every position on the court – and her competitiveness.
“She will take any game and turn it into a competition, whether it’s scrabble or volleyball,” Gretchen said.
Kate readily agrees, saying, “When the competition is the toughest, that’s the most fun.
“It’s more fun to play a great team and lose then demolish a weaker team.”
Henry Clay demolished opponents en route to the Regional title last fall when the Blue Devils beat Dunbar in the final, avenging losses the previous two years.
“That was the highlight of the season for me,” Kate said. “It was so much fun.”
Henry Clay advanced to the State semifinals, losing to Mercy Academy of Louisville in three games. That match marked the first time in the State playoffs that a public school won a game against a private school.
Kate is much more than a fierce, talented player who can jump — she’s 5-foot-9 and her vertical leap is 28 inches. She also has a big heart.
She’s active in her church youth group and arrived at school an hour early every Wednesday to run a tutoring program started by her sister Sarah.
“We’ve very proud of all that Kate has done,” Gretchen said.