In A Hurry

Melinda Berry Ann has always moved at her own pace – one that typically leaves bystanders in the dust. She started earning college credits before graduating from high school, won a race in her first competitive year in college, and will graduate from West Virginia in two and a half years. And by the time she does that, she'll be married and setting up housekeeping in a brand new location.

While we all catch our breath, let it be known that Berry Ann, a student in WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and a member of the WVU women's track team, isn't fazed at all by the breakneck pace at which she has advanced through life.

"It's part of my personality to be like that," Berry Ann says. "I guess I've always been a little unconventional in general."

Pressed to expand on that thought, the precocious Berry Ann can't come up with too many examples. She doesn't have a pierced tongue, and she's not out at all hours of the night. The best she can muster is that she "doesn't go out an party much".

"I've never been the stereotypical person that goes out a lot," she explained. "I may go out with friends, but I don't take that to extremes."

While she may not be the leader of the local Goth cell or painting her fingernails bright green, the level-headed University High School graduate is definitely different from your average college student, and she started establishing her bona fides in that area long before enrolling at WVU. As a high school junior, Berry Ann enrolled in a program that allowed her to take college classes while still at UHS. She took full advantage of that opportunity, earning a whopping 47 college credits before she became an official WVU student.

"My junior year of high school, I took classes like Psychology 101 and Chemistry 110 at WVU," Berry Ann said. "There are about 30-40 kids each year at University High that do this. As a senior, some of the classes I took were Calculus 251, Physics 151 and Psychology 281."

That list, which many college graduates would be proud to claim, shows that Berry Ann wasn't piling up on Library Science or Rocks for Jocks. She's a serious student, who puts the emphasis on the first part of "student-athlete". She was one of 11 valedictorians at University, finishing her high school career with a perfect 4.0 grade point average. And since her entry into the state's flagship institution, she has continued to maintain her achievement level by earning a spot on the President's List. However, after getting the great head start on her college career, she discovered she was missing the athletic part of her life.

"I enjoyed running in high school, and I missed it when I came to college," Berry Ann said. "I decided to walk on, and Coach Huntoon welcomed me. I like running a lot, and it was great to get back into it."

Berry Ann redshirted during her freshman year at WVU, then began competing in the fall of 2004. After competing for the cross country team, she capped her first semester of competition with a win in the mile at the WVU Holiday Classic on Dec. 4th.

"Coach is good about finding races at our level that we can compete in," Berry Ann said. "I'm not even pretending that I'm at the level of a Megan Metcalfe or anyone like that."

Still, winning any race on the collegiate level is an impressive achievement, and one that might light a fire under many athletes to move up in competition. However, here Berry Ann once again falls on the unconventional side of the fence, as her collegiate career is winding down, almost before it got started.

For Berry Ann, again setting a hurried pace, will graduate this December. That's two and one-half years, in case you haven't been counting. She'll run this fall for the Mountaineers, but will earn her degree in mathematics at the end of this year, and that will wrap up her short, and dare we say, unconventional time at West Virginia. She says she will have "no regrets" about not getting to have a full four or five year career as many athletes do, but that's probably because she has an even busier schedule in front of her.

"Once I get my undergraduate degree, I will be going to graduate school, the busy Berry Ann said. "I'll probably study mathematics or biostatistics, but I have to figure out where that will be."

Her location for graduate school is unknown, because she hopes to find a school close to the base where her fiancé, Jeff Coen is stationed. Coen, who is enlisted in the Navy, is attending the Navy's nuclear school in Charleston, S.C. before being deployed to who knows where. So, while she's finishing up her spring semester and making plans for graduate school in an unknown location, she'll also be planning another life-changing event. She and Coen will be married on June 18th of this year, making her summer, fall and winter a busy one.

That schedule won't keep Berry Ann from running, even though it won't be for the Gold and Blue. She hopes to begin training for even longer races, with the ultimate goal being participation in track's signature event.

"I really want to run marathons," Berry Ann said of her next challenge. "I haven't run one before, but I will start training for those after I leave WVU. I ran about 15 miles of a marathon without even being registered, and I was just taking pictures and having fun. It's something I'd like to pursue in the future."

Given Berry Ann's quick pace and success rate, it probably won't be a surprise to see her heading the pack of local races while also achieving high marks in her graduate school endeavors. For her, it will be simply another race to the finish line – and ones in which she's accustomed to coming in first.

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