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The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

The Student Voice of Forest Hills Central

The Central Trend

From crew to quantum physics, Zachary Reiffer loves challenges

Saniya Mishra
Senior Zachary Reiffer finds ways to challenge himself through sports and science.

Last year, senior Zachary Reiffer found himself partially paralyzed. 

It happened after some weight lifting and crew training took a toll on his spine and pinched his nerves, leaving him unable to sit up on his own for a full day after the issue. 

“I had to get a car ride down to the hospital, which was probably the worst of it,” Zachary said. “I was forced to move beyond what was comfortable. And you never really feel it when you’re sitting in a car, but the bumps on the road—they can be pretty bad.”

This injury led Zachary to be moved from the first varsity eight crew team to the second, a huge hit to his junior crew season. Even now, the injury persists. And with it, so does Zachary’s resolve. His goals remain set on advancing to the national competition in spring as a part of the first varsity eight team.

“[Crew] is definitely challenging,” Zachary said. “I’m hoping to not [get injured] again this year, and hopefully, we can make it pretty far. I’m hoping to go to nationals, but I don’t know how likely that is. It would be nice to do that [for] senior year.”

Not only is crew a physically demanding sport, it is time-consuming. Much of Zachary’s schedule is devoted to practice hours and regattas. Inevitably, Zachary finds himself facing many schedule conflicts because of this. This year, it will be Science Olympiad competitions that overlap with crew events. 

Still, Zachary has found ways to stay highly involved by helping teammates study and prepare for competitions. He will still compete in one this year where he will take on the Chem Lab, Astronomy, and Air Trajectory events.

Zachary initially joined the Science Olympiad team in seventh grade when he was influenced by his siblings. 

“[I joined Science Olympiad] mainly because my siblings did,” Zachary said. “And, I wanted to beat them—mainly because of sibling rivalry.”

I don’t like learning things that a lot of people already know because I feel like it’s not going to be as useful for moving forward. So, I like to study the unknown things and try to find answers.

— Zachary Reiffer

As the middle child with two older and two younger siblings, Zachary has always immersed himself in competition, especially with the brother just older than him, alumnus Daniel Reiffer. 

Daniel’s advancing in math classes pushed Zachary to do the same and catch up with his elder brother, who is pursuing computer science and continues to influence Zachary’s career goals. 

“I want to one-up him but also go a different route,” Zachary said. “I turn to aerospace engineering instead because I also like studying space.”

Zachary takes opportunities to learn new areas of science and mathematics, like astronomy, that intrigue him—even beyond what he learns in school through AP Chemistry, Science Olympiad, or his dual enrollment for Linear Algebra. 

Last year, he spent time learning about neurology, and this year, he’s spending his limited free time studying quantum physics with textbooks he has found online. Still, space fascinates him and remains his current career choice. 

“[Space] is completely unknown,” Zachary said. “[For] a lot of things, we just have no idea [about them], like black holes. We really don’t know anything about those. I don’t like learning things that a lot of people already know because I feel like it’s not going to be as useful for moving forward. So, I like to study the unknown things and try to find answers.”

A common theme through Zachary’s endeavors in science and sports is his love for challenges. Whether it’s taking on unfamiliar subjects in and out of school or pushing himself further as he rows, Zachary is motivated to always do more. 

While he may have originally pursued difficult interests in competition with his siblings, Zachary’s desire to tackle challenges has defined many of his passions today. 

“I like challenges because they force you to think,” Zachary said, “which [is something] I feel like we don’t get enough of. There are a lot of people taking the easy route, like easy classes, to just get through it, but I feel like you’re not getting much out of it in your life. [Challenges] force you to learn and grow as a person—I feel like that’s the most important thing for me.”

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About the Contributor
Saniya Mishra, Copy-Editing Manager
Saniya Mishra is a senior, writing for her third and final year on staff, busied by her many passions. She is an artist who cares deeply about the world. But there's one love she especially enjoys, loses herself in completely, only to resurface with a newfound perspective and a couple hundred words vomited on a Google Doc. Ever since third grade, she's fallen head over heels for writing. It is her escape. It is her adventure. It is her everything. Favorite writers: Ruta Sepetys, Amanda Gorman Favorite books: 1984 by George Orwell, Salt to the Sea Ruta Sepetys, I'll Give You The Sun Jandy Nelson, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins Favorite colors: maroon, emerald, navy blue, lavender Favorite songs: "hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me" by Lana Del Rey, "Can I Call You Tonight?"  by Dayglow, and "Growing Sideways" by Noah Kahan

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