When George Rickett, a high school senior at River Valley High School, was looking for a place to both get an exercise science degree and compete as a student-athlete in both cross country and track & field, Wilmington College emerged as the place that fit all of those needs together.
Rickett, a native of Bidwell, Ohio, located on the southern border of the state, has excelled at both. An exercise science major with a sports performance concentration, he carries a 3.83 cumulative grade point average while also pursuing a coaching minor. The academic demands, alongside being a student-athlete in all three sports seasons – cross country in the fall, indoor track & field in the winter and outdoor track & field in spring – requires great time management.
"I make sure to get enough rest, and try to go to sleep around the same time each night," said Rickett. "This allows me to be fully present during the day, where I set aside time to get my studying done."
The year-round schedule might seem grueling to some, but Rickett welcomes the busyness.
"I like keeping busy as it keeps me on schedule," he said. "I haven't felt my academic or athletic performance slip because of it."
During his first cross country season, Rickett finished 79th at the Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) Championships, running the eight-kilometer course in 29:21.5. As a sophomore, in 2019, he improved on both is place and time, crossing the finish line in 27:52.2 for a 52nd-place finish. After another summer of training, Rickett was poised to place even higher when WC hosted the OAC Cross Country Championships in 2020.
Enter the COVID-19 pandemic. All fall sports in 2020 were postponed to the spring semester, and cross country, largely because of track & field competing, had its entire season wiped out. Per Rickett, that was a big blow.
"During the summer going into my junior year, the College didn't have students living in dorms, so I lived in Kava Haus [a local business owned by the father of teammate Simon Heys] with a few of the other guys on the team," said Rickett. "We found out halfway through that summer that the season was canceled, but we kept on training. Running takes a long time to get better at, and we knew mileage would help come track season and beyond."
Rickett ran personal bests during that track season, competing in the 5,000-meter run and both the indoor and outdoor championships as well as placing sixth in the steeplechase (9:40.65) at the OAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships. Wilmington tallied its highest finish – fifth – in a decade in both events.
Wilmington will host the 2021 OAC Cross Country Championships on Oct. 30. For Rickett and his teammates, the meet serves as both a challenge and an opportunity that was worth the year-long wait.
"We had big goals during the 2020 season as we wanted to improve upon our sixth-place finish in 2019," he said. "It's going to be awesome to run on our home course. Hopefully, it provides an advantage for our team, and we can finish in the top three of the conference."
Rickett has been able to balance his duties as both a student and an athlete, in part due to his professors and coaches.
"Both my professors and coaches are always open to emails, conversations after practice and are just present," said Rickett. "One of the things that drew me to Wilmington was the small class size."
Rickett's future plans include coaching at the collegiate level.