Watching Breanna Radford win the President’s Award at the Gamecock Gala fit into the same category as winning a national championship for track and field coach Curtis Frye.
“You could have poured a Gatorade on me because that’s the kind of exuberance I felt,” Frye said.
The award is the most prestigious honor for a South Carolina athlete, and Radford, a senior shot putter, is the perfect mold of a student-athlete, Frye said. Her training partner said Radford inspires hard work in athletics as well as service and dedication as a student. Radford’s throwing coach remembers the team captain setting a goal to remember everyone’s name on the team.
But Radford is uncomfortable talking about herself, though she has every right to brag. While many student-athletes could use the excuse that they just don’t have time to overachieve in college, Radford has proven otherwise. As consistent as she’s been in her performances as an athlete, she’s been more impressive in her accomplishments as a student, earning her the athletic department’s highest honor.
As chemistry major, she has a 3.87 GPA. She has more than 90 hours of community service. And she was a bronze medalist for shot put at the SEC Indoor Championships.
Typical students struggle to find enough time to manage academics alone, not to mention the community service – her goal was to graduate with more than 100 hours – and being an athlete with practice and competition commitments. So, how does she do it?
“I like to know my semester in advance,” Radford said. “I’ll usually get all my syllabi in the beginning of the year and fill in my whole planner for the year to know when my tests are, what’s overlapping with what, if I’ll be at a meet while I have a test. Just knowing in advance kind of helps me with my studying because I know when I need to start studying and whether I need to talk to a teacher about missing a test or handing in homework early and stuff like that.
“I think just planning ahead has really helped me keep my schedule balanced.”
Radford also keeps a healthy balance with realistic expectations. She said she never came to college with hopes to become a professional shot putter, but wants to attend medical school and become a pediatrician.
Her community service work also revolves around her passion for children, dividing her time across 16 projects. Radford takes a heavier academic course load in the fall semester, when track and field is off, and uses her weekends to volunteer. She spends the majority of her time working at a free medical clinic and events that involve kids.
A shot putter and Radford’s training partner, sophomore Kaysee Sullivan said Radford showed her what can be achieved both in athletics and in academics.
“She’ll come to me and talk to me about how she goes to the clinic and volunteers and then organizes all of these other volunteer hours,” Sullivan said. “I’m like, ‘Bre, where do you get all of this time at? Do you not have class? How do you do it?’ ”
Sullivan wanted to sleep in one weekend when Radford urged her to participate in USC’s dance marathon for charity. Another time, Radford brought Sullivan with her to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald house.
“I’ve been here long enough at USC to see a lot of athletes come through the program and there’s a lot of great people that come through the program. Then there’s individuals who just really stand out in terms of their ability to manage so much,” throws coach Mike Sergent said. “Bre is one of those individuals that has done an amazing job of managing her academics, managing her community service outreach and volunteering with athletics. Everybody doesn’t pull that off.”
Though Radford has little trouble setting high standards for herself in academics and community service, Sergent challenged her to raise her expectations for her senior season. She narrowly missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships, but she and her coaches expect her to qualify for the outdoor championships because of the consistency of her throws. She finished in the top four of every indoor shot put event with a top mark of 16.68 meters.
Radford and the coaching staff have set a goal for her to finish her Gamecock career as an all-American. But for Frye, she’s already a champion.
“She is the ultimate,” Frye said. “If I had to make a mold and I had to design it as a young person that is an example of success, that mold would look like Breanna. I’d pour it with kindness, I’d pour it with concern and I would pour it with humility, and it would come out being her.”