By Thomas Sellers Jr.
As the rained poured down, an eighth-grade Rachel Sullivan realized she was on a collision course with varsity sports.
Her very first meet as a Briarcrest Christian School Lady Saint Track athlete was memorable for multiple reasons. A rain delay gave her ample time to embrace the moment and prepare for a decorated high school athletic career.
“It was nerve wracking because you’re not allowed to run until Regionals,” Sullivan recalled. “So I had to finish my middle school year. In Regionals, hurdles was my first event. And that day it was a rain delay so I had to keep waiting and waiting for my event.
“The meet itself wasn’t over until 1 a.m.,” she continued. “So I was just waiting two hours for my one event. Just sitting there talking to a lot seniors. They were the only other hurdles. They calmed my nerves but also made me scared because I was the youngest by a lot.”
But as Sullivan matured, she became a State champion in multiple sports and racked up several individual awards in track, volleyball, swimming, basketball and water polo. Her achievements earned her the 2019 West 10 Media Female Athlete of the Year.
“It’s surprising because I didn’t know about it,” she acknowledged. “And to see it’s not just one sport but all sports is so nice. To see all the work under one. I feel very honored because so many different people were up for it and I was the one chosen.”
Sullivan joins previous winners Bethany Berger (2015 Tipton-Rosemark Academy) and Savanna Owens (2018 Briarcrest).
Like Berger and Owens, Sullivan had a busy sports calendar while maintaining high grades. She will be attending Rhodes College, playing volleyball and track. The member of the National Honor Society and Prep Volleyball All-Academic team said her high school years were a marathon.
“A typical year it was one or two practices a day for sports,” Sullivan recalled. “And then normally I would do homework after the sports since I had school, a practice and another practice. I would get to bed around 1 o’clock.”
There to guide and motivate her along the way were her parents Melissa “Missy” and Donald “Don” Sullivan.
“My parents kept me in line a lot,” Rachel said. “My mom would always bring me food because she knows I love food. Between practices she would make a quick run for me to make sure I had what I needed.”
That support gave Rachel the boost she needed to win the 2018 Division II-2A High Jump championship and be a part of the 2016 and 2018 Lady Saints Volleyball teams.
“My coaches, I had a good bond with them since I had a lot of them for four years,” Sullivan noted. “Some of them would help me as a middle schooler. They would encourage me to play other sports instead of telling me like, ‘You can only play volleyball.’ Instead it was, ‘Why don’t you go play basketball.’”
Sullivan was a member of the Lady Saints Track team for five seasons, and she played four years of volleyball and was on the swim team for four years. She played basketball her freshman and senior years.
And Sullivan even drove over to Arlington High School to participate in her new favorite sport of water polo.
“It’s the weirdest sports because it’s co-ed,” she said. “And there’s not as much girl-drama within the sport. But it’s a whole community because there’s not as many teams, the reason why I had to go play with another high school.
“There would be girls’ games on the weekend where girls would come from other high schools and play,” Sullivan added. “After the game the coaches from the other teams would come up and coach you.”
But the strongest part of Sullivan’s legacy at Briarcrest is track.
“My best sport would have been track because I was able to show myself as a player and not just a teammate,” she said. “I would see what I could do by myself.”
Now she prepares to move on to Rhodes to write her next chapter in track while playing some volleyball.
“Getting to try everything and be more focused,” she concluded. “I’ll get to do track again with a completely different set of coaches. It will be different critiquing of my skills.”