Q&A with Billie-Jo Grant
All-American Billie-Jo Grant received ACC Co-Performer of the Week accolades Tuesday for her recent accomplishments. A native of Arroyo Grande, Calif., she is a fifth-year senior with still another year of eligibility left in outdoor track and field. Grant holds the school records for both shot put and discus. This season she has already rewritten the mark for discus with her personal-best throw of 56.07m.
Virginia fans can see Grant and the rest of the Cavalier track and field team in action this weekend when it hosts a dual meet with Missouri on Friday and Saturday. The hammer throw will be the only event on Friday, beginning with the women at 3:30 p.m. and concluding with the men at 5 p.m. Events on Saturday will begin in the field at 11 a.m., with the javelin throw, while track events will open with the women’s steeplechase at 1:30 p.m.
Question: As a senior, how has this year met your expectations?
Grant: This program has really grown since my first year here. We have become a very competitive team in the ACC, and have consistently had a great representation at the NCAA meet. Even though I am a fifth-year, I still have one more year of eligibility due to a medical red-shirt. So I will be around next year, but only for outdoor, which is exciting.
Question: How have you embraced your role as leader of the team, not only athletically, but as an inspiration to your younger teammates?
Grant: As a team leader at the track and through SAAC (Student Athletic Advisory Committee), many of my teammates come and talk to me about concerns for our team, the athletic department or for school and academics. I have really enjoyed being a resource for younger teammates to be someone they can go to for advice or help.
Question: How has the fact that you’ve now broken so many school records impacted your approach to the rest of this season?
Grant: My performance this year has only set the bar higher for what I can accomplish. By qualifying for the Olympic trials, my sights are set on doing the best I can in the upcoming months to prepare for better throws.
Question: What went through your mind when you found out you had broken the school-record for the discus this past weekend at the Hurricane Challenge? Was this experience different from when you broke the record for the shot put?
Grant: This past weekend when I broke the discus record, it was also a personal best and an Olympic B standard, so it was a very special moment. It signified finally overcoming injury and again, gave me a lot of hope for the season ahead. Although the shot-put record was also special, I am a much more accomplished discus thrower, and love to throw the discus.
Question: Did you ever expect to be as successful as you’ve been on the team? What motivates and drives you to continue to excel?
Grant: One of my favorite quotes is by John Wooden, “Always know you did your best to become the best you are able to become.” Although I had some set backs, with two surgeries, I always do all that I can to do my best, and it’s finally all coming together. My expectations are very high. I plan to place in the top three in the country this year, and plan to be very competitive at the (Olympic) trials. To accomplish these things I need to be the best I can be; so I will work as hard as possible in the upcoming months to achieve my goals.
Question: How has being on the track team defined your experience at UVa? What will you take away (and what have you taken away) from your experiences on the team?
Grant: The track team is like an extended family you spend a lot of time with your teammates and go through challenges and celebrations together. My coach, Carrie Lane, has been a great motivator and guide through my college experience. My time on the team has allowed me to overcome challenges. I’ve set high goals and achieved them. I’ve also created many wonderful relationships with my teammates and the administration.
Question: What else are you involved in around Grounds? How has your involvement on the track team influenced your approach and participation in these organizations?
Grant: Outside of track, I am the president of SAAC. SAAC is an organization comprised of members from each athletic team. We meet once a month to discuss issues at our University, issues of concern within our athletic department, and serve as a voice for student-athletes to express their concerns. In addition, SAAC reaches out to the UVa community through student council, the residence halls, and many committees and organizations. It has been wonderful to have a relationship with the UVa community as the SAAC representative and to be a leader within the athletics community. I love being able to help others and create change.
Question: What has been the greatest challenge for you this year on the track team? How have you overcome any challenges the past few years on the team?
Grant: Although I have faced many personal challenges and transferred schools my first year, my two surgeries (shoulder and neck) have to top that list. Surgeries take a lot of time to recover from, especially if you plan to throw again, so I would spend countless hours in the training room, rehabbing day and night to get back out there.
Question: What do you think have been your greatest accomplishments thus far on and off the track? What have been your greatest memories?
Grant: My greatest accomplishment thus far would probably be a list of things. I was an All-American in the discus my first-year, only a year after a surgery that took a lot of rehab. I was also an All-American again my second-year. I broke the school record with a personal-best throw of 16.15m and I’ve already graduated. Although I faced many challenges during my transfer to UVa, I persevered through the tough times and I am proud to say I am now working on my PhD in education policy. My greatest memories would have to be a Friday at the track with the throwers, it’s usually full of great conversation.