What do track and field runners at Duke, Stanford, and Georgetown have in common? They are all members of some of the most competitive collegiate teams in the nation — and they all have to balance intense training with rigorous academic workloads. Success Academy coach Ozzie Henderson thinks he has the next big star for top collegiate programs like these — someone who thrives both on the track and in the classroom: sophomore Ronn’e Bailey.
Coach Henderson selected Ronn’e for this year’s track and field Scholar Athlete of the Year Award. The annual honor goes to one participant from each athletic team at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, bestowed to scholar athletes who demonstrate outstanding achievement in both sports and academics. Even among 40 other hard-working track team members, Ronn’e stands out. With a rigorous course load that included AP–level History, she ended the year with a GPA of 94, one of the highest in her class. She remained focused despite daily two-hour track practices and weekend meets that meant traveling across the country.
Ronn’e helped the team earn top times in both the indoor and the outdoor competitive seasons. Her 4x400m relay team — which Ronn’e anchors — is currently the third fastest in New York City. Most recently, Ronn’e ran a 55.90 anchor split of the sprint medley relay at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. The team placed 6th out of 40 competitors. Not bad, for the team’s first time competing in this race.
We caught up with Ronn’e in between classes and training to learn more about what motivates and inspires her.
SA: What does it take to be a successful scholar athlete?
Ronn’e: Being a student athlete can be really hard, especially when you have to put in extra study time for a test or a project. When I took the AP test, it was a challenge to go to practice after a long day at school, then come home, eat dinner, study, and get to bed on time. The best tool I have is time management.
At our school, we have free time built into the daily schedule to do our homework or get extra support in a subject. It’s called lab — a block of time where we can learn to prioritize our own tasks. I always use the lab to get my homework finished, so that after practice, I can go home and either relax or study if I need to prepare for a test.
You have to stay focused. It’s really hard to not just use lab time to hang out with friends. I have to remember that the sacrifices are worth it because it’s important to be able to handle your schoolwork while pursuing your passion.
SA: Do you plan to keep running competitively after high school?
Ronn’e: Yes! But I also want to be a doctor, so that’s why it’s good preparation for me to learn to be a student athlete now so that I know what to do when I’m running in college — hopefully with a scholarship.
SA: What in particular draws you to track and field?
Ronn’e: I love the teamwork, both during the relays at competition and the team building that happens during practice. I like depending on my teammates in a competitive setting. In a normal race, when it’s just you, you’re the only person that you can depend on. But at events like Penn Relays, we all relied on each other to lift each other up. We were really able to work as a team, and during training — which is very hard — we keep each other going.
Track does gets hard, and sometimes people are tempted to quit. But I feel that if you actually love something, you should commit and just do it. Once you get out there on the track and finish a race, of course you are tired; but you are actually proud of what you can do.
SA: How do you prepare mentally for your races?
Ronn’e: Our coaches have us write down our goals and then describe how we plan to execute our training and our running in order to get there. It’s a great way to strengthen our mindset and help us strategize.
I also talk to myself when I’m racing. The 400m is a strategic race; you have to pace yourself. So through each part of the race I’m reminding myself of what I need to do so that by the time I get to that last part, where it hurts so much and I am just relying on strength, I can push myself right until the finish line.