Nov. 3, 2016
By Brad Muller | More Features
Being a student-athlete requires a lot of personal sacrifice. South Carolina cross country and track student-athlete Meri Heneage also knows that sometimes athletics may be sacrificed in order to get the most out of academic pursuits. Heneage is missing her final season of cross country this fall while studying abroad at the University of Queensland in Australia.
“Giving up my last year of cross country was definitely the hardest decision I had to make regarding choosing to come to Australia,” Heneage said. “I wish there had been a way to do both, but I knew I would regret never taking the opportunity to go abroad while I could. The experience has made me appreciate being on a team and made me miss my team more than anything. Missing out on the season reaffirmed my love for the sport and my desire to come back for track in the spring.”
The South Carolina cross country team earned the second-highest grade point average across the three NCAA divisions last year, marking the fourth-straight season the team has ranked in the top 10 among cross country programs nationally in combined GPA. Head coach Andrew Allden is accustomed to losing student-athletes from his program because many graduate in less than four years, and he believes in putting academics first.
“I can’t sell things like the International Business program when I’m out recruiting, and then tell them they can’t do something that’s a requirement to get their degree.” Allden said. “It’s just part of the balance you have to have. It’s the same for something like the nursing program where they’re going to have two days per week when they have to do their practicum.”
This isn’t Heneage’s first venture overseas. The Columbia native traveled to Europe last summer through the Darla Moore School of Business and was anxious to learn how to make it on her own. The opportunity to go to Australia was too good to pass up.
“I was interested in studying abroad because I knew I wanted to see more of the world and challenge myself by living in a new country,” Heneage said. “I'm taking two business courses for my major. I'm also taking a course on Aboriginal Studies and a course on Australian Flora and Fauna. It's been really cool to take classes that teach me more about the country I'm living in.”
I truly believe that this experience has made me a better student, but also a better athlete.
Heneage has also enjoyed getting an education outside of the classroom by learning about a different culture.
“I chose Australia because of how much adventure and amazing nature it offered,” Heneage said. “I've been able to hike, rock climb, surf, scuba dive, and snorkel, in stunning places. Overall, Australians are a lot more laid back and witty with what they say. I've had to learn a lot of Aussie slang and how to say a lot of words differently. I really enjoy the culture here and it hasn't been difficult to acclimate to it.”
Heneage added that holding a koala, diving in the Great Barrier Reef, and driving the entire Great Ocean Road have been among her favorite experiences.
While she will miss her cross country season, the redshirt junior is still keeping in shape so she will be ready to compete in the distance events for the track and field team next spring.
“Finding time to run hasn't been too difficult,” Heneage said. “Running around my campus and city has been really easy because the city is very runner friendly. There are lots of paths along the Brisbane River that are great surfaces to run on.
“As a student, studying abroad has forced me to grow in so many ways. The opportunity is a resume builder and has helped me receive credit to finish my degree. I know my coaches have my best interests in mind as they are allowing me to come back in the spring. I can't thank them enough for allowing me to do both. I truly believe that this experience has made me a better student, but also a better athlete. I really have had to push myself to train on my own, and it has made me appreciate having the support of my teammates and coaches so much more.”
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