Reese is a two-time world champion and four-time U.S. champion
July 7, 2011
By Natalie Myers
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations student assistant
When Gulfport High School's track and field team was in need of a long jumper, Brittney Reese's coach was hesitant to let her try out. Reese was already involved in six other events, and adding long jump to the list did not seem like an option.
But Reese was persistent about trying out, and all it took was one jump for Reese to be pulled from the 400 meters and tabbed as the school's new long jumper.
Fast forward nine years. Reese stands out as probably the best female track and field athlete in Ole Miss history. She participated in the 2008 Olympics and earned the 2009 and 2010 World Championship in the long jump.
The world-class athlete, who once chose basketball over track at Gulf Coast Community College, recently captured her fourth straight U.S. national title in the long jump to firmly establish herself as one of the best in the event in the country's history.
Despite all her accomplishments, the 24-year-old still has more dreams and aspirations for her career. Although she has medals, trophies and world titles to justify all her hard work, she continues to train every day for the 2012 Olympics. She is testing her own limits by trying to beat her personal long jump record of 7.19 meters that she set at the 2011 USA Outdoor Championships - which happened to be the best jump in the world this year.
Reese accomplished one of her greatest goals, however, when she returned to Ole Miss this past spring semester to complete her degree. She graduated in May with a bachelor's degree in English and a minor in psychology.
"Getting your degree is a serious matter because what if you get hurt?" Reese posed. "What are you going to fall back on? A lot of kids now are turning pro when they really don't have to, and professionals are not going anywhere."
Throughout her successful career as an athlete, Reese says she always knew she was going to finish her degree.
"It was kind of tough sitting out, coming back, sitting out and coming back, but I'm glad I finally finished," Reese said about completing her degree. With the cooperation of the University's English and Psychology departments, and her determination, Reese proved to be just as successful in the classroom as she is on the track.
Reese also had the support from her mother, Carla Young, and her coach, Joe Walker, when returning to the classroom.
Walker, who just completed his 29th year at the helm of the Ole Miss program and has served as Reese's personal coach since she went pro after the 2008 season, describes Reese as a humble person, a fierce competitor and one of the best he's ever coached.
"Brittney is a great Ole Miss track alum and represents us well," her coach said with pride.
Walker believes it was important for Reese to finish her degree, saying that obtaining an education is why any athlete would accept a scholarship to a university and that athletics is just a bonus. "You can only do athletics for so long," he said.
Reese does not believe this is the end of the road for her education. She has contemplated attending graduate school or possibly pursuing an additional bachelor's degree in psychology. However, that is something that may have to wait until her long jump career has ended.
Reese's advice to anyone who wants to pursue a career in athletics is to never let that dream override your education. She said that even if someone is currently a professional athlete, they can still get their degree.
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