By Hannah Mason
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Baylor has long been known for stressing the importance of academics in the lives of their student-athletes, and for track and field seniors Jessica Ubanyionwu and Diamond Richardson, performing well in the classroom was always a part of their plan.
Both seniors came out of high school with high academic honors and haven't missed a beat on or off the track at Baylor.
Both have been Big 12 Commissioner's Honor Roll selectees six times, members of CoSIDA's Academic All-District First and Second Teams, as well as each having been recognized multiple times by the Academic All-Big 12 First Team.
In addition to these achievements, Ubanyionwu and Richardson were both recipients of the prestigious NCAA Elite 88 Award in 2010, which was the first year it was presented. Ubanyionwu won the Elite 88 award for the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Indoor Track and Field Championship, and Richardson won it for the 2010 NCAA Division I Women's Outdoor Track and Field Championship.
Ubanyionwu felt that the Elite 88 was the award that most perfectly fit her personality since it truly acknowledged both her academic and athletic achievements.
"Between academics and athletics, one is not more important than the other," Ubanyionwu said. "School and track, that's who I am. That's just me. "
Ubanyionwu is a Health Science Studies/Pre-Med Major with a 3.93 GPA and is currently the only Academic All-American on the track and field roster. She always knew that she wanted to be a doctor, so finding a university with a strong academic presence was very important.
"I came here because I knew that Baylor was academically high in the rankings," the senior jumper said. "I knew people would see my degree and say ‘Wow, she went to Baylor, that's a good school.'"
The pre-med program and its well-known teachers were what caught Ubanyionwu's eye the most when she was weighing her options. With her plan to attend medical school, knowing that the program was highly esteemed was a big factor in her decision to come to Baylor.
Similarly, Richardson also knew that finding a university with the right balance of focused academics and great athletics was number one on her list.
Having the chance to be a part of a high-performing team and get a great education at the same time was what sold her on attending Baylor.
"There's a lot of schools that have really good athletic programs but they don't have the name that Baylor has when it comes to academics, " the senior runner said. "I wanted the combination, I didn't just want one or the other."
As a Business Journalism Major with a 3.92 GPA, Richardson was named the school's representative for the Big 12 Community of Champions this past February. With the end goal of a career in the public relations field, she knew that Baylor's Journalism department was where she needed to be.
The small class size, the potential for competitive internships, and the impressive array of professors were all the convincing she needed to decide on business journalism as the path to get her to a public relations career.
"I love PR, I love everything about it. I'm still just trying to figure out exactly what field I want to go into," Richardson said, "And since I have one academic year left, I should have that figured out before graduation."
In addition to all of their academic accomplishments, Ubanyionwu and Richardson have been outstanding performers on the track and in the field, and have each received many awards for their athletic abilities.
Ubanyionwu is currently ranked No. 9 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big 12 for the triple jump. She is also ranked No. 28 in the NCAA and No. 2 in the Big 12 for the long jump.
Richardson is currently ranked No. 2 in the NCAA and No. 1 in the Big 12 in the 400 meters, as well as No. 13 in the NCAA and No. 6 in the Big 12 for the 200-meter. She also runs anchor leg on the 4x400-meter relay that is ranked No. 1 in the NCAA.
When asked how they manage to perform so impressively both in the classroom and on the track field, Ubanyionwu and Richardson had pretty much the exact same answer. A routine consisting of a few simple steps: class, practice, study, eat, sleep, and repeat.
While it may sound like a tough schedule to stick to, their drive and determination to be the best in everything they do has helped them to succeed in doing just that.