CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — After all, it’s not like she really needed to take the campus tour.
Ohio Valley Christian senior Rachel Sargent and Ohio Christian University have become quite familiar with one another over the last six seasons, mainly because Sargent has participated in multiple Ohio Christian Schools Athletic Association state tournament events at the OCU Maxwell Center during her accomplished prep career.
With that in mind, Sargent will be spending a few more productive years in Pickaway County after signing a letter of intent with the Ohio Christian University track and field program on Friday, May 19, inside the OVCS gymnasium in Gallia County.
Sargent is arguably one of the most decorated student-athletes in Lady Defenders history after playing four seasons of varsity volleyball, six winters of varsity basketball and a fall of varsity soccer while also participating on four years of track and field.
During that six-year span — students at OVCS are permitted to play in varsity contests as seventh and eighth graders in the OCSAA — Sargent amassed two state appearances in volleyball and had another three state berths in basketball, which includes a state runner-up finish in each varsity team event.
Sargent has been honored as the top defender and top offensive player in volleyball during her prep career and leaves OVCS as the basketball program’s second all-time leading scorer with 1,166 points — just seven points behind leader Madison Crank (1,173).
Track and field, however, is still somewhat of an unscratched surface for Sargent — even though she has competed at the varsity level since her freshman campaign.
Given that OVCS doesn’t compete in the OCSAA track and field championships and has never had more than a handful of athletes out in any one given year, a lot of what Sargent has accomplished has solely been on an individual level.
In joining a Trail Blazers program that is growing in both numbers and talent, Sargent is very giddy about what the next four years of competition — and schooling — can lead to.
“It is really exciting for me. I’m thankful that God has blessed me with the ability to be able to continue my athletic career while also getting an education in the process,” Sargent said. “I’m really excited to see where the future leads me and I’m thankful for the opportunity that Ohio Christian University has provided me.”
And, as Sargent alludes to, she knows going in that this opportunity will be something unlike anything she has ever experienced before in her young life.
Then again, there will be some things that are quite familiar to her as well.
“You know, we only had five people in the entire track program at Ohio Valley Christian this year. What’s exciting to me is that there will be a whole team of track athletes that will allow us to take part in relays or have more opportunities to score points at the events. I’ve never had that experience before, so I am looking forward to that in itself,” Sargent said. “I’m also looking forward to being able to train year-round with other accomplished track athletes and like-minded individuals with God, which I’m hoping will help me become a better all-around student-athlete and person.”
Ohio Valley Christian track and field coach Rick Handley — who coached Point Pleasant middle school track for roughly 15 years before taking the OVCS job — believes that the sky is the limit for Rachel over the next four years.
He also thinks the same is true for Ohio Christian University during that span.
“Rachel is an excellent athlete and a good student. More importantly, she is a better person,” Handley said. “She’s been one of the easiest athletes I’ve ever had the privilege of coaching because of her natural talent and her desire to work at being the best that she can. Ohio Christian University is getting a very special young lady and we are very proud of what she has accomplished during her time at Ohio Valley Christian.
“Her best years in track are waiting for her because she will be able to train year-round with other accomplished track athletes. Here, she was always jumping from one sport to another … so she was never really able to focus on just one thing. She’ll be able to do things at Ohio Christian University that were just never possible for her in high school … and I’m sure she will.”
This year alone, the Lady Defenders competed in six track meets — which included a trio of prestigious invitationals at Point Pleasant (Paul Wood Memorial), Charleston (Gazette Relays) and in Doddridge County.
In all of three of those competitions, Sargent came away with high-point honors in the girls division. She finished in the top three at each meet in the 100m dash, 200m dash, 400m dash and also in the long jump.
Of those four events, the 400m dash times were the ones that stuck out most as each hovered right around the 60-second mark. That one-minute effort would have been good enough to finish on the Class AA girls podium last week at the WVSSAC meet in Charleston — as Sargent is originally a native of Point Pleasant.
However, given the chance to compete in relays or stay in the events she currently knows best — Sargent is ready to do whatever is asked of her once she arrives at Ohio Christian University.
“I really think the 400 is my best event now, but I know that the coaches will put me in a position where I can personally succeed while also help the team … and that’s what I will do. Whatever is needed,” Sargent said. “I am hoping that they will give me a shot at one of the relays because I’ve always wanted to try it and I think I can be successful at it, but I am going in knowing that this will be an entirely new experience for me. I just want to go in and help the program be as successful as I can.”
Sargent also knows that she has a small support group waiting for her once she arrives on campus, which was something that aided in picking OCU as her college destination.
“I have friends and former teammates that are currently enrolled there and they have told me how nice things are on campus. It’s not real big, so you pretty much get to know everyone on campus,” Sargent said. “In my visits, not sports related, I’ve really taken notice of how friendly everyone is and how close the faculty is able to work with students. It really seems that there is always someone there for you if you need it … and that was a very comforting thing while making my decision.”
Of course, before looking forward, Sargent took a moment to humbly remember all of the coaches and teachers at Ohio Valley Christian that have made this dream a reality.
“I’ve had a lot of great people at Ohio Valley Christian help me get to where I am today … and I am grateful for each and every one of them along the way,” Sargent said. “I think that they saw potential in me at an early age and really pushed me to become better at everything that I was involved in. They instilled in me the determination to want to better myself every day for a greater purpose. I am very lucky and proud to have attended Ohio Valley Christian … and I feel prepared for the next chapter of my life.”
Sargent graduated from OVCS with a 3.0 grade-point average and plans to major in Psychology while attending Ohio Christian University.
Rachel is the daughter of Richard and Judy Sargent of Point Pleasant, W.Va.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.