By Nick Arthur
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For Sydney Scott, approaching that steep hill on the cross country course or that final straightaway on the track isn’t in the slightest bit intimidating.
Scott, a sophomore member of the West Virginia track and field team, has faced major challenges in life while balancing an extremely rigorous academic schedule.
And Scott doesn’t mind that one bit.
It all started in high school in Denver.
“I went to a public arts magnet school and they didn’t offer sports,” Scott explained. “So my dad suggested I try out cross country at a local high school. I was very hesitant at first. I had to ride the bus after school to the high school that offered sports. I would usually arrive at practice after the rest of the team was finished, and I ended up working out on my own.”
Scott wasn’t sure what to think of running at first, but her father encouraged her to stick with it, so she did.
“I started to like the fact you could see improvements in the numbers. You could see yourself running faster every week. I really liked that part,” Scott said. “Running itself, I wasn’t a huge fan of at first. It definitely took me a while to get into it. It was about halfway through my sophomore year in high school when I really started to see a lot of improvements that I got into the routine of running and got more comfortable with it. I really started to enjoy it.”
College coaches also saw her progress and soon began to contact Scott about possibly competing for them at the next level.
“I always knew I wanted to go to college, but was never sure how I would pay for it,” Scott said. “Running certainly provided that option for me. That really encouraged me.”
The ambitious runner had no clue where she wanted to attend college. She wanted to get out and explore, though, forcing her to look outside of Colorado.
“I was being recruited by coaches from Iowa, Washington, Connecticut and New Hampshire. I met with a lot of coaches,” she said.
As the recruiting process began to pick up, Scott experienced a setback.
“I was competing in a big race and I had a seizure,” she admitted. “I think a lot of the coaches who were recruiting me saw that and immediately saw a red flag. All of a sudden, I wasn’t getting calls back from coaches. Coaches were kind of just leaving me hanging in terms of offers.”
Scott, who suffers from epilepsy, kept running. Eventually, the University of Connecticut put her in contact with Mountaineer coach Sean Cleary.
“West Virginia was the last place on my radar,” Scott said. “I kind of narrowed it down to some schools, and I got a call from Sean Cleary. I didn’t know what to make of it. I had to do a lot of research on Morgantown and WVU. I wasn’t familiar with it. I came out on a visit. After my conversation with him in person, I could tell he had my best interest in mind, and I just didn’t see that from the other coaches I spoke with.”
Cleary admits the decision to call Sydney was an easy one.
“Sydney had moments in her career that showed she could be a competitive Division I athlete. I think other coaches anticipated the worst,” Cleary said. “This was a young girl who was a tremendous musician, a great student, a wonderful runner and more than anything a great kid. Having kids who have faced adversity, overcome it and achieved can only strengthen a team.
“If I had to do it again, I’d do it 10 times in a row.”
So Scott decided on West Virginia and enrolled in music performance. She had a background playing the violin, as her high school required a musical instrument tryout in order to enroll. She quickly meshed with the team and was excited to start her collegiate running career.
But then, Scott hit another road bump.
“My first meet I had at West Virginia, I had a seizure,” Scott said. “I knew it was always a possibility, but I tried not to get too worried about it.”
Scott sat down with doctors and her coach to evaluate her options.
“It was a large combination of things that led me to feel I should start considering solutions. Brain surgery became an option. I met my neurologist often. They kept saying that it will go away as I got older. It was actually the opposite,” Scott explained. “They were gradually getting worse. I just got to a point where I decided I needed to get surgery. The year between my freshman and sophomore year was when we decided was best.”
In January 2013, Scott underwent a form of brain surgery in hopes of eliminating the seizures.
Now, Scott is back on the track. She’s as healthy as ever, and this past fall she helped the WVU cross country team to its fifth top-10 finish since 2007, crossing the line fifth overall among Mountaineer competitors.
Scott isn’t quite sure what she wants to do down the road, but admits she has interest in music therapy.
“For right now, I know I just love music. I love the violin and I want to use it in some way,” Scott said. “I’m still figuring out what I want to do. I like private teaching and have a few students now. I really enjoy that.”
The two-time NCAA All-Region competitor has certainly made her mark in the Old Gold and Blue. The hardships Scott has endured along the way have only helped prepare her for the rigorous balancing act required in her life.
“It has been a lot harder for me to focus on running in college, especially because I’ve put so much time into music and it’s such a demanding major,” Scott admitted. “But at the same time, I love the balance. After a long day, a good run will help clear my mind. Running is my escape.”
Her teammate and close friend, Lydia Martinelli, has been with her through the journey in Morgantown and looks forward to what is in store for Scott and the Mountaineers down the road.
“I’ll always remember her patience – through everything. She’s always going to be one of my great friends,” Martinelli said. “She listens to you and she always puts others first. Her strength is indescribable. What she can accomplish next is simply not measurable.”
Her strength and courage have defined her as an individual, and the track serves as her outlet – just the way Scott likes it.