Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor
USC athletes are more than just champions on the field, court, diamond and pool, they're champions in the classroom as well. Each week we will get to know one of these scholarly Trojans a little better in our student-athlete spotlight.
Sport: Track & Field (100m, 200m)
Sarah Bergstrom (SB): Transferring from New Mexico and coming to USC last year, was it hard to adjust? Did it feel different academically being here?
BeeJay Lee (BL): Yeah it felt much different. I'm from California so I was used to the California education system. New Mexico was kind of a breeze for me. So going from high school to New Mexico to then coming here, it was really difficult to adjust.
SB: What were some of the things you did to help yourself adjust to the pace here?
BL: I just made sure that I took to a lot of tutoring and study hall sessions. I learned to take much better notes here. I just narrowed my focus down to school and track.
SB: At both New Mexico and USC what have you found to be most important when it comes to balancing school and track?
BL: It really is time management. You've got to balance out your athletic life, academic life and at the same time you still want to have a social life too. Just prioritizing the three is really what's most important, rather than abusing one of them.
SB: I see that you're a Communications major. When your track career is done what do you hope to do with the degree that you get from USC?
BL: I've always known that I was good at talking with people and being personable. So I've always wanted to be a coach. With my degree from USC I want to go into marketing or advertising. Selling products to different people or working with companies to help their growth.
SB: What does it mean to you to know that you will get your degree from USC?
BL: I think it is really important. That is one of the key reasons that I came back home and went here. My coach at New Mexico knew how I felt about being far away from home and offered me to go to many other schools. But I chose USC because I wanted to come back home, but more importantly because having a degree from USC speaks volumes for you. It weighs so much to have a degree from USC in the real world. I feel like that was the most beneficial part of coming back.
SB: In terms of that Trojan Family network, have you already had experiences as an athlete where you've realized how strong that is and will be when you are done here?
BL: I feel like when I first got here I was welcomed by my teammates, different coaches, professors, academic staff and many different people. Just in a year, so many people have embraced me and made me feel like I'm a part of the Trojan Family. It's a lifelong bond and that's something that starts while you're at school.
SB: What does it mean to you to get to be a USC student-athlete?
BL: I think it's something that is kind of unmatched. One, because you're in such a great location. Two, the tradition and history of the school. Our track team specifically has the most NCAA championships among any other school in the nation. We have also produced the most Olympians. It kind of speaks for itself. I think being a USC athlete is really important. I'm very honored because I'm representing more than just myself as an athlete, I represent a great tradition.
SB: What are some of your interests outside of school and outside of track?
BL: One thing that a lot of people don't really know about me is that I can cut hair really well. In my leisure time, if people need a haircut I am always willing to cut hair. I don't have a barber's license so I can't charge anybody so I just do it as a hobby. Really just cutting hair, listening to music and hanging with my family is what I enjoy doing.
SB: Going into track a little now, last year you ran a personal record in the Pac-12 Championships in the 100m but then got injured at NCAA Regionals. Was that frustrating for you to end the year that way and how have you approached this season?
BL: It was definitely frustrating. One thing that I took from that is that you really can't take anything for granted and you have to go out of your way to keep yourself healthy. That setback helped me have a better comeback, especially mentally, coming into this year. I'm mentally strong and more prepared for what I may face this year. The thing I really learned was that it's difficult to work really hard and to not finish where you thought you would in the post-season but you can't take anything for granted. That's most important.
SB: What about this season? How do you feel you and your team have done through the first half of this year?
BL: I think it's been a really solid year. We have a whole new coaching staff with much experience and a lot of knowledge of the sport. Overall as a team I think we have come extremely far. More than half of our team have had personal bests this year and improved by great amounts. For me individually, I think I'm on a roll to a good place this season. I feel like I'm a great contribution to the team and I am excited to continue this season and look to next year, my last year of track and field at USC.
SB: Track is a sport that's about peaking at the right time especially as you get closer to championship season. Do you feel like you're on the track to doing that?
BL: Yeah I feel like I'm on perfect track this year. I feel healthy and I don't feel overworked or too rested. I feel really good right now and my coaches are on a good timeline for getting me right for the meets. I feel like I'm on a pretty good track right now.
SB: What is your personal goal for finishing this season?
BL: I'm a junior so I really only have one more year to do anything big in college after this. So I want to be an All-American in the 100m and then I really want to improve my 200m time this year. So if possible I'd like to be an All-American in both events. Of course, to compete in the 4x100 and get on the podium for that and to just give my team a really good chance at winning the national championship this year.