Two years ago, Wakefield senior hurdler Breanne Bygrave sought treatment for a nagging foot injury. Little did she know the therapy would inspire her – on and off the track.
When Bygrave’s foot was slow to heal, she and her parents sought a second opinion at Impact Orthopaedics in Raleigh. Dr. Rob Jones, a former North Carolina pole vaulter, treated her for a bone contusion and soft tissue injury. She would see him again for a strained quadriceps after hitting a hurdle and falling.
“The therapy really got me interested in orthopedics,” Bygrave said. “That’s when I thought about being an orthopedic doctor.”
With the revelation, Bygrave saw her academic and athletic futures fall smoothly into place. Academically, she carries a 4.65 grade-point average with a long-held interest in science and biology. Athletically, she has elite talent – her 100-meter hurdles time of 13.94 seconds led the state earlier in the year.
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“She is very impressive,” Jones said. “She is dedicated, mature and is very focused for a kid her age. I told her dad her focus is a gift. She has a great opportunity to go to a medical school like Penn and compete on the track team.”
Bygrave’s talent attracted many schools, but her academics drew Ivy League interest.
“My goal has always been to get straight A’s, but I didn’t categorize myself as an Ivy League athlete,” Bygrave said. “I didn’t really think about attending an Ivy League school until Harvard started to recruit me.”
The Penn assistant coach recruiting her was Porscha Dobson, a former North Carolina hurdler. She’s only eight years removed from Chapel Hill, where she posted some of the Tar Heels’ all-time fastest marks.
“I do better when people can show me what they’re teaching,” Bygrave said. “Coach Dobson is able to do that. That was one of the things I liked about her. I clicked with the other girls on my recruiting trip. It seemed like the right place for me.”
Events and objectives tend to flow together for Bygrave. She grew up playing other sports, including earning a black belt in taekwondo. But she gravitated to track after watching her sister Michelle, who is six years older, as a hurdler at Millbrook.
Now that Bygrave is down to the final month of her high school career, her goals include improving upon last season’s N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state outdoor meet. She was third in the 100 hurdles in 13.98 and fourth in the 300 hurdles at 43.48.
To prepare for 2016, she stepped up her training. She lifted weights to get stronger. She also posed before a full length mirror at home. It had nothing to do with vanity – she’s about substance over style. Wakefield Coach Ann Graham suggested the unique drill while sitting on the floor and practicing arm motions used approaching hurdles. The idea is to develop muscle memory in an event heavy on techniques.
“My times dropped quickly to start the year,” said Bygrave. “I could tell it was working. Hurdling is more muscle memory than thinking. It’s one less thing to think about.”
In the winter indoor season, she won the NCHSAA 4A state title in the 55 hurdles in 7.89, was second in the long jump at 18 feet, 4 inches and fourth in the 300 dash in 40.20.