When coaches recruit potential collegiate athletes, they ask several questions in their search for students who are talented both athletically and academically.
With senior Venessa Lee, the answers were easy.
The PSU pre-med major has smashed running records while making plans to attend medical school next year. Described by Track and Field Head Coach Russ Jewett as "the total package," Lee surpassed his expectations from day one, setting high standards for herself and the rest of the team.
With an original intent to compete in NCAA Division I athletics, she admits deciding to go to Pitt State wasn't easy at first. But with the offer of an athletic scholarship, the convenience of living in a Gorilla Advantage county that would allow her to qualify for in-state tuition, her acceptance into the Honors College, and a persuasive and persistent coach, Lee decided on Pitt State - a decision she's glad she made.
"I've had a lot of opportunities here I wouldn't have had elsewhere," she said.
Since joining the team, she has continued to impress her coaches and peers. She qualified for the U.S. Championships a year ago, which drew some of the best runners from across the country. The boost of confidence she gained from that experience led her to spend last year training for the U.S. Olympic trials, which were held earlier this summer in Eugene, Ore.
Although only a fraction of those competing made the cut, Lee's sacrifice during her year of training is something to be commended. She decided to red shirt on the PSU team last year in order to focus on improving her time in the 800-meter race, meaning she had to compete "unattached" and find her own financing to travel with the team.
"I knew I needed time to train for one event," Lee said. Her supportive family encouraged her all along. "My dad is the biggest track fan ever. They want me to achieve my goals."
Jewett is glad to see Lee competing with the team once again, saying that as one of the PSU's top three cross country runners, she was greatly missed. With medical school on her horizon, she has her biology instructors in her corner, too.
"As an athlete, she is competing with the best and knows how to manage her time well while working hard in her classes," said Dr. Peter Chung, assistant professor in biology and her academic adviser. "When she sets her mind on her goals, there is no wiffle-waffling. She's humble and down to earth, and that says a lot about her character."
Lee said she has yet to meet the biggest challenge of her running career, and that she isn't through with competitive running knowing she still has her best time within. "I know I'm not done yet," she said. "I don't want to leave knowing I can run faster. And I know I can."