With the swing of a racket on the court and the slam of opening an AP textbook on her desk, Abygale Ahn landed a spot on the IHSA All-State Academic Team. She has a long list of impressive accolades: National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Student Council, and valedictorian of the Class of 2019. The IHSA All-State Academic Team is a select bunch. Only 25 star student-athletes were given the honor this year. They are chosen based on outstanding grades, community service, ACT scores, and athletic achievements.
“Being recognized for that is a really special honor,” Abygale says. Abygale played varsity tennis and varsity volleyball during the same season throughout her high school career. She was half of the dynamic duo with partner, sophomore Cassie Lee. The doubles team made an appearance at State twice — taking third each time. Not only that, but she earned a spot as the starting libero on the volleyball team.
“To play both volleyball and tennis at a very high level in the same season was a remarkable accomplishment,” says Jack LeGrand, the Athletic Director at Timothy. “Her dedication and effort to both sports has helped her achieve excellence.”
Excellence seems to be ingrained in her nature. Abygale, who transferred to Timothy in fourth grade, has always been a stand-out student. And by the time she could join a club team it was clear she was a gifted athlete. Athleticism was so natural and came so easily for Abygale, that it slowly defined her. “Being an athlete has always been a part of my life,” she says. “I found my identity in it.”
But over time, that changed as she took the court wearing a Timothy Christian Schools jersey. The win at all costs attitude was replaced with team devotions and prayer. “We were pursuing the Lord as a team and as individuals,” Abygale says. “That was something that changed my view on what an athlete was. Before I found my identity in it, but my experience as an athlete at Timothy was building my true identity as a follower of Christ.”
With teachers nurturing her faith and coaches more interested in her spiritual life than her stats, Abygale’s personal faith matured. “It was so important to be surrounded by people who were rooting me in my faith and supporting me in everything that I do,” Abygale says. “I’ve felt encouraged by all the faculty. They have rooted me in wisdom and the truth of the word.”
In January of her freshman year, Abygale boarded a flight to Honduras, for Renew, to serve for eight days at All God’s Children Orphanage. It was there — away from the cheering crowds, outside of an AP class — that Abygale felt a true calling. “That experience was transformational,” Abygale says. “The Lord worked in my life through the time that I spent there. Since then I feel like my relationship with the Lord has changed. He set a fire in my heart for him. He completely and radically changed my view of my life. My purpose is to glorify him and be a light for him and a witness through everything that I do.”
That trip was so life-changing, so impactful, that Abygale returned to Honduras six more times during her high school career. She immersed herself in the Spanish language, even taking AP Spanish with the hope of becoming fluent. It also influenced her to major in anthropology and pre-med this fall at Wheaton College. Her plans for her future always seem to lead her back to Honduras, back to that orphanage, back to tending to, and loving the least of these. “I want to go back to Honduras,” she says. “I want to be a physician and do medical mission work and provide services to those who are in need. That’s a powerful way to allow the Lord to work through you.”
That goal means Abygale has years of arduous classes ahead of her. She also plans to play tennis for Wheaton College. But for the girl who somehow managed to balance five AP classes, two varsity teams, several clubs, and the highs and lows that naturally come with high school, she’s not deterred. In fact, she’s more focused. Her favorite verse is 2 Timothy 1:7: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” The verse keeps her focused. “We are free from all the fear that weighs on us,” she says, “because we are not of this world anymore.”
The people, the relationships, the potential impact she could have is too strong, too important to allow fear or challenges to deter her. And now, as a high school graduate, she can understand, and quite possibly even envision, the impact she can have on people and on their faith — just like teachers and coaches had on her. And the goal doesn’t seem so arduous anymore. It simply seems like a calling.