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4.0’s pull off the perfect APSU student-athlete balancing act

Austin Peay Sports Information

Austin Peay State University Sports Information - , APSU, Governors, Govs, Lady GovsClarksville, TN – It’s really hard to earn straight A’s in college, regardless who you are. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. The people that graduated magna cum laude – 4.0 GPA all the way through – made up about 10 percent of the overall graduates at Austin Peay’s Spring 2014 commencement.

People that are able to do it have a level of perseverance, dedication, time-management and natural intelligence that is nothing short of phenomenal.

Now add sports to the mix – games, practices, training, film, hour upon hour demands when you’ve already got to devote so much time to class and studying anyway.

Austin Peay State University Sports - APSU

Should be impossible, but nothing is impossible, which is why a handful of upperclassmen on Austin Peay State University athletic squads are carrying cumulative 4.0s into the last week of the fall semester.

The most impressive resume’ belongs to senior volleyball player Liz Landon. Nearing completion of her degree in health and human performance, Landon has been awarded nearly every academic honor available at the regional (Capital One CoSIDA Academic All-District), conference (OVC Academic Medal of Honor) and university (Governors Club Academic Achievement Scholarship). Calling that an impressive body of work is a massive understatement.

Landon makes it look easy. That seems to be the key.

APSU's Liz Landon“I’ve just worked hard,” she said with a shrug. “Even during the stressful times, I’ve just kept working. I know what it takes to get an ‘A’ and I know that I can do it – anything less just isn’t acceptable to me.”

In talking to a handful of the highest achievers in Austin Peay’s department, hard work and long hours sound like the norm.

“I get up around 6:00 (a.m.) for practice,” said sophomore men’s cross-country runner Martin Rejman – one of two men’s cross country upperclassmen (Alex Haycraft) with perfect grades. “I start class around 9 and three or four days a week I work in the office of International Education, then more class. I study in the evenings – I study a lot more during exam time.”

There’s a lot atypical about the lifestyle of a student-athlete, with travel being at the top of that list. Lots of class time can be missed, and student-athletes either have to play catch up or get ahead on their schoolwork in order to keep pace with the rest of the class.

So a little understanding and flexibility from the faculty goes a long way to sustaining classroom success. Developing those relationships can be tricky, but successfully doing so can pay sweeping dividends.

“I’ve been fortunate with my teachers,” Landon said. “They’ve been very understanding and they’ve worked with me scheduling-wise to get everything done and be up to date with what’s going on in class. I’ve been very grateful for them.”

The grind can be wearing. Juggling all the aspects of student-athlete life can be tiring, especially with so little free time. But that’s kind of the point – not everyone gets the opportunity to be a Division I athlete. It takes a special kind of person to succeed at it.

“I like school,” said sophomore distance runner Unjula Lester. “I like being in class, I like experiencing the whole thing, seeing the teacher. Instead of emailing and waiting, I can just talk to the teacher after the class. I want to be able to ask questions right then and there.

“I’m here to be a student-athlete. I have a lot riding on this. I have to maintain a good GPA. I relax during our breaks. I don’t go out much; maybe to the mall every once in a while if we’re not competing one weekend.”

All coaches want their athletes to do well in the classroom. Highlighting academics can have the trickle-down effect of pushing already-ambitious athletes into challenging one another outside the field of competition as well.

“Coach (Ross) Brown really emphasizes academic achievements and getting a good GPA,” said sophomore Brittney Covington. “He really wants us to do well. Since everybody else (on the team) has a high GPA, it pushes me to maintain a high GPA and not slack off.”

It’s exam time across Austin Peay’s campus, and time can run short for even the most studious. Making the time is paramount, and while it’s hard to find the time, it’s important – it’s what student-athletes are here for, after all.

“I put in a lot of hours,” Covington said. “It’s hard sometimes, with practice and conditioning and meetings. I squeeze in the studying time because I need to.”


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