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April 3, 2012

Roeper track standout earns scholarships to VCU

By Jason Carmel Davis
C & G Sports Writer

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Birmingham Roeper senior Briana Ratchford recently signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Virginia Commonwealth University womens track and field team. She was recruited specifically for javelin and shot put events.

BIRMINGHAM — Birmingham Roeper senior Briana Ratchford has played several sports throughout her young life — soccer, volleyball and basketball.

But it’s on the track that she truly excels, and that excellence has led to Ratchford signing a National Letter of Intent to join the Virginia Commonwealth University women’s track and field team. She was recruited specifically in the javelin and shot put events.

“I know track is a team sport, like volleyball and basketball, but there are individual aspects to it, too, and I like that,” said Ratchford, a Southfield resident who has been a member of the Roeper track and field squad for three years.

“I do like doing relays and things like that, but I like being out there by myself not having rely on other people. There’s just something about it being just you against another person.”

As a member of the Roeper track team, Ratchford’s accomplishments include winning the 2010 and 2011 Division 4 100-meter high hurdle state championship. She also holds the school’s record for 100 high hurdles, crossing the finish line 15.72 seconds, as well as throwing the shot put 39 feet, 7 inches. Both records were set in 2011.

Ratchford also takes part in Amateur Athletic Union events, where she’s medaled in three different events — two heptathlons and one pentathlon. And in August 2010 at a meet in Virginia, she had a javelin throw of 122 feet, 11 inches.

What makes Ratchford’s accomplishments more impressive is that her school doesn’t even have a track, according to her coach, Ed Sack.

“I train a lot with my dad. He’s always worked with me on a lot of things and taken me to a lot of different tracks to work out on,” Ratchford said.

Briana’s mother, René Ratchford, said it’s hard to put into words how proud she and her husband, Greg, are of Briana.

“She’s a very hard worker who dedicates herself to whatever she does,” René Ratchford said. “She’s got a 3.4 grade point average, she’s a girl scout and she’s a Division 4 champion in the hurdles. She’s really focused.”

Briana plans to study forensic biology in college. Jill Graf, a former coroner turned teacher, sparked Briana’s interest in the field and a goal of becoming a forensic pathologist.

Along with her athletic scholarship, the Roeper senior also received two academic scholarships from the Richmond-based University.

“She’s grown into a really confident person. She doesn’t lose very often on the track, and she takes that with her in other aspects of life,” said Sack, the longtime Roeper coach. “She’s not scared of anything or anybody, and she puts the fear of God into people when she steps into the circle or into the block.”

Briana, who plans to attend medical school once she completes her undergraduate program, said she also received looks from Michigan State University and Syracuse University. She said what she liked most about VCU was its campus, adding a future teammate helped sway her.

Briana is also a member of the National Society of High School Scholars, a member of the Motor City Striders youth track team, a counselor at the Roeper summer day camp and serves as a mentor.

“I like everything that I’m doing and I want to keep it up, so I have to manage my time well,” Briana Ratchford said.

“I know I’ll have a much different schedule (in college) than I do now, but I know (at VCU) they try to schedule classes around practices and meets. They have tutors athletes have to meet with for eight hours each week. There’s lot of good benefits of being an athlete in college.”

René Ratchford, who said she and her husband will make the trek to Virginia to attend as many of Briana’s meets as possible, admitted she worried some about Briana participating in athletics while in college. But the Roeper track star’s mother added that she’s found Briana is at her best when balancing academics and athletics.

“She’s proven that she can stay focused. It’s great that VCU was at the top of her list for academics, and then she gets the athletic scholarship to go there. We’re very blessed.”

Even with all the excitement of making her college choice official, Briana isn’t thinking too far ahead. She said she hopes to return to the state championships and medal in the shotput.

At the end of the season, Briana will set out to start the next chapter of her life. She said she’s ready to experience new things outside of southeast Michigan.

“I think it’ll be good to live in a new place and grow as a person,” she said.

Her mom supports that dream.

“I have another daughter in Rhode Island,” René Ratchford said. “I think (Briana) is ready for it. I know she’ll succeed. I’m not worried at all.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Jason Carmel Davis at jdavis@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1107. Twitter Follow Jason on Twitter.