Elijah Counterman

Abby Khatri, Staff Writer

As the Sterling Scholar in math, a varsity team captain of cross country and track, and violin player in symphony orchestra, Elijah Counterman truly is the jack of all trades—and master of all.

School is something that has always come naturally to Counterman, although that wasn’t always so clear for his parents. Liesl Counterman, Elijah’s mom, says they did not notice his aptitude for school until later on in his education. 

“Well it’s kind of funny because I thought he wasn’t very smart because he didn’t talk very much until he was two and a half,” Liesl said. “I didn’t really know how smart he was until about sixth grade.”

She attributes this to his humility, as he is someone who does not feel the need to show off his impressive accomplishments.

“He wasn’t focused on proving himself, he never has been focused on proving himself publicly…he doesn’t need that,” Liesl said. 

Counterman approached his freshman year of high school (also his first year of attending a public school) as a chance to try new things and take on the most challenging classes he could. When he scored a 5 on the AP Calculus BC test that year, Liesl was amazed, realizing the extent of Counterman’s potential. 

Although his parents are extremely proud of everything he has achieved, they have always made it clear that he is loved for himself rather than his accomplishments, a message which Liesl says has helped him grow into the person he is today. 

“We’ve always encouraged him [to understand]  that he’s accepted in our family and loved, and we don’t push him towards excelling…because I don’t want him to be thinking that his identity is in his performance,” Liesl said. “I think that maybe has actually freed him to excel, knowing that we don’t really expect it…[it]  has actually given him the encouragement and freedom to do well and do what he wants to do.” 

In addition to his impressive high school curriculum, including quite a few AP classes, he has completed six semesters of the High School-University Program, an accomplishment which was no easy feat. 

AP Calculus BC was the first and last math class Counterman took at Highland, with his math classes in succeeding years being taken through this program at the University of Utah. Counterman not only came to Highland as a mostly finished product, but will be entering college the same way, having earned enough credits to graduate in around two years.

This is especially impressive considering the numerous other things he has balanced with his academic career, something which he says has always been a struggle for him.

“Taking on a little too much…I do that a lot. Where it’s like I can do it, but I don’t know if it’s really good for me to do it,” Counterman said.  “You just don’t have a life outside of school, which isn’t good. Just learning how to balance it [was a struggle].” 

However, he says that doing other activities like running cross country and track were important as they gave him a much needed break from the everyday stresses of a high school student, a necessary component to a balanced lifestyle. He also says it is no surprise that he chose those sports. 

“Running is a classic nerd sport,” Counterman said. 

Counterman boasts a truly admirable work ethic, his relentless hard work being a trait recognized by everyone he knows. Few students can say that they have the self-control necessary to stop watching the newest show on Netflix or the next thing to show up in their YouTube recommended to do homework, but Counterman says this was the only time he could spare in order to get everything done. 

“[I finish work] in the in between times sort of. Like if I have a free hour here I’ll just do homework rather than watch YouTube or whatever and just getting it done when I can rather than when I feel like it, because those are two different things normally,” Counterman said. 

Counterman is drawn to math because of its practicality and unchanging nature, something which he says has become rare. He also enjoys the proof process, as he values understanding how knowledge is formed rather than blatant memorization. 

“There’s nothing in math that you can’t prove is there…I think that’s a good thing,” Counterman said. “Especially today where everything is about emotions and how you feel…I think it’s something good to fall back on.” 

Counterman plans on pursuing a double major in math and chemistry and says his expertise in math has helped him improve his ability in scientific research, in addition to giving him skills that are useful in everyday life.

“The proof process…is essential to research. It’s necessary for proving an argument, and stuff like that. A lot of the concepts of math that are well defined in math we use in real life.” 

Counterman is not entirely sure what the future holds for him beyond college, long term career and life goals being something he hopes to figure out in the next couple of years, with medical school being a possibility. Whatever he decides to do, there seems to be no doubt he will excel at it.