UNC's SI athlete of the year has little time to celebrate

CorrespondentJune 25, 2013 

It took three weeks to get Loren Shealy on the phone to talk to her about being named Sports Illustrated’s Female College Athlete of the Year.

Free time, it seems, is something the North Carolina field hockey player has in precious short supply.

The Charlotte native started an internship in San Francisco about three weeks ago at Texas Pacific Group, a private equity firm. Before that, the rising junior spent a week in Norfolk, Va., competing in the USA Field Hockey Women’s National Championship. Shealy, a forward, scored one of the winning team’s goals in the championship game of that tournament.

During the work week at the Texas Pacific Group, Shealy often starts walking to the office about 6:30 in the morning. After spending her day serving as a research analyst, she says she tries to squeeze in training and workouts in the final hours of the day to make sure she’ll be sharp when practice for UNC’s field hockey season starts on Aug. 12.

All the while, she’s also enjoying her first extended stay on the west coast.

Shealy’s ability to balance competing demands is one reason Sports Illustrated named her its choice for the Female College Athlete of the Year.

Last fall, Shealy started almost half of the games for the Tar Heels’ field hockey team, scoring 16 goals to help UNC reach the championship game of the NCAA tournament.

As part of the prestigious Robertson Scholars program that allows select Duke and UNC students to study at both schools, Shealy then spent the spring semester living at Duke while taking psychology, philosophy and economics classes.

“It was a great learning experience,” said Shealy, who was the first-ever student-athlete ever to participate in the program. “I met a lot of really interesting people. Everyone at Duke was really well trained, very nice. I loved the classes I was taking; they were smaller and I got to really interact with students and professors. It’s a great school. I learned a ton.”

Even if the classes were smaller, Shealy did not come to regret her college choice – her father went to UNC, and she grew up in a house where rooting for the Tar Heels and cheering against the Blue Devils was engrained at an early age.

“I prefer North Carolina 100 percent,” she said. “But it was a good experience just to see that side of it just because I do go to a large public university.”

This summer, many of Shealy’s teammates are back in Chapel Hill or scattered throughout the country either getting ready for the field hockey season or taking classes. Shealy said she knew of only one other who was working an internship.

UNC coach Karen Shelton said it’s not unusual for her players to work summer internships, but Shelton almost always assumes those players will return to campus not completely ready for the impending season.

“I think what’s unusual in Loren’s case is that I don’t need to worry that she will come back with wonderful fitness, and I don’t need to worry that she won’t be disciplined in terms of really trying to find training opportunities,” Shelton said. “A lot of times, kids get comfortable when they’re in Chapel Hill because they have all the resources, and then when you go on these internships, it’s much more difficult.

“So it requires a discipline level that Loren possesses. I don’t have to worry about it.”

Shealy managed to carve out the time to apply for internships during the field hockey season last fall. She’s thinking of pursuing a career in investment banking and saw an internship as a valuable step.

On her resume, Shealy stressed her time management skills, pointing to her Robertson Scholars status and her position on the Tar Heels’ field hockey team.

After the Sports Illustrated announcement and this summer’s experience, it seems resume revisions will likely be necessary.

“I’m honored, I’m flattered,” Shealy said of the award. “It’s crazy – I didn’t think I’d ever get anything like this. I was trying to work hard in the classroom and in the field.”

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