Pair of Seniors Honored in At-Home Ceremonies as Top Graduating Athletes
WATERTOWN — Two Watertown High School seniors were honored Sunday afternoon as the top graduating athletes and recipients of the William I. Graf Award. Tiffany M. Russell was selected as the women’s recipient, and Ryan E. Peters was named as the men’s honoree this year.
The William I. Graf Award was created in 1954 by the Italian-American Civic Association to honor Mr. Graf’s leadership and civic engagement in the community. The Northern New York Community Foundation was selected to help continue the Graf family legacy by administering the fund in perpetuity and raising awareness of the award for students who strive to earn the prestigious honor.
Mr. Graf was a multi-sport coach and athletic director at Watertown High School. Graf Award honorees are expected to have participated in at least two or more varsity sports in their senior year and demonstrate exceptional character and sportsmanship, discipline, fair play, training, athletic ability, and academics.
Tiffany Russell is an accomplished varsity track and field team member at Watertown who also played varsity volleyball for four years. Her varsity career began in eighth grade when Coach Robin Boomhower brought her on the Watertown varsity track and field team. She is the reigning Section 3 champion in the pentathlon and the reigning Frontier League champion in the long jump. During the 2019 season, she qualified for the New York State track and field championship in the pentathlon, finishing 14th overall and 8th in Division 1, setting a new school record. Her trip to the state meet came after a pentathlon win at the Section 3 state qualifier meet. She was named team captain for her junior and senior years.
As a volleyball player, Tiffany earned honorable mention All Star during her freshman and sophomore years and was names team captain in her junior and senior years.
Her varsity leadership roles in track and field and volleyball have taught her many valuable team building skills. After graduation, Tiffany plans to immediately enter the workforce and prepare for college to further her education in the veterinary science field. She is the daughter of April McConnell and Allen Russell, Watertown.
Ryan Peters is a standout three-sport varsity athlete, participating in cross country, basketball and baseball during his freshman and sophomore years, and continuing with basketball and baseball in his junior and senior years. He is a four-year recipient of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Scholar Athlete Award. As a baseball player, he distinguished himself as a three-time Frontier League All-Star and was named to the All-North Team during his freshman, sophomore and junior years.
He received honors from the New York State Sportswriters Association as a baseball pitcher in his freshman, sophomore and junior years and served as team captain his junior and senior years.
He was named a Frontier League All-Star in basketball in his junior and senior years. In his junior year, he earned All-State Honorable Mention Class A in basketball and finished his high school playing career 12th overall on the Watertown High School All-Time Leasing Scorer List for basketball. He was also named Frontier League Division “A” Basketball Most Valuable Player in his senior year.
Off the athletic field, Ryan has served as a volunteer at Watertown Urban Mission, the Watertown Salvation Army Soup Kitchen, the Children’s Miracle Network and is a member of the All Saints Church Youth Group. He has held a leadership position in the Watertown High School International Club and works on his family farm in Chaumont.
Ryan will attend Herkimer Community College in the fall, where he plans to play baseball and major in physical education. He is the son of Lori and Eric Peters, Chaumont.
More than 100 graduating high school seniors have received the Graf Award. Watertown High School’s athletics staff selects the recipients each year, and the Italian American Civic Association presents the award.
Following the death of Mr. Graf’s son, William A. Graf, in 2013, the family decided to honor him by funding a $1,000 financial award for recipients. William A. Graf, who also embodied the traits of the award, attended Watertown High School and played several varsity sports coached by his father, William I.
Since 1954, 112 Watertown High School athletes have been named Graf Award recipients; 68 men and 44 women. Click to view a list of all William I. Graf Memorial Award recipients.
About the Northern New York Community Foundation
Since 1929, the Northern New York Community Foundation has invested in improving and enriching the quality of life for all in communities across Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.
Through partnerships with businesses and organizations, charitable foundations, and generous families and individual donors, the Community Foundation awards grants and scholarships from an endowment and collection of funds that benefit the region. Its commitment to donors helps individuals achieve their charitable objectives now and for generations to come by preserving and honoring legacies of community philanthropy while inspiring others.
The Community Foundation is a resource for local charitable organizations, donors, professional advisors and nonprofit organizations. It also works to bring people together at its permanent home in the Northern New York Philanthropy Center to discuss challenges our communities face and find creative solutions that strengthen the region and make it a great place to live, work, and play.