On the track, Virginia Tech’s Ronnie Black is having an outstanding junior season.
At the Virginia Tech Invitational, Black set the school record in the indoor high jump record at 7-foot-3 1/4 (2.22 meters). That beat the old mark of 7-1 (2.16 meters) set by Steve Whaley in 1983.
That, however, hasn’t been his proudest moment.
Junior All-American Ronnie Black set the school record in the indoor high jump as the Hokie men’s and women’s track & field teams competed on the second and final day of the VT Invitational at Rector Field House.
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You see, he is raising the bar in the classroom as well.
“I got an A in organic chemistry.” Black said. “That was probably my proudest grade. It wasn’t just about the grade. It actually kickstarted me on academics. I started studying a lot for OC, and then I started doing undergraduate research with Professor John Morris in the chemistry department. It just got me all that much more interested in my academics.
“I’ve always been interested. But it got me excited about learning. It was challenging and it was my hardest-earned grade. I like challenges.”
Before that, Black, already a strong student, was coasting. He only needed a 3.0 grade point average to compete and he pretty much did that by osmosis. Then along came Organic Chemistry, the challenge he sought in the classroom.
“That it was so tough made it that much sweeter,” Black said. “I earned the grade and know that I worked countless hours, just putting in the work and seeing it pay off and seeing it on my transcript.”
Black is all about results and setting himself up for success. He front loads his hours during the fall so as not to overly tax himself during the indoor and outdoor seasons. So his taking 16 hours and a lab right now is made up in the fall and in summer school.
Even still, his day is far from easy. His day starts at 8 a.m. when he wakes for a class that starts an hour later. It’s two classes, a break, then the weight room, a tutoring session followed by a lab, and then there is practice at 6 p.m. After practice, there is another study hall and the day is still not over.
“It doesn’t stop at midnight,” Black said. “I’m usually in bed by 2 a.m. That’s why I set that PR [personal record] early in the season 2.22. Class wasn’t going yet and I was getting sleep.
“It’s definitely not easier. I’m still putting in the work and still chasing that 4.0.”
With his transfer of hours from Virginia Commonwealth, his first school, he has a cumulative GPA of 3.25. With the organic chemistry grade from the fall, he had a 3.87. He’s not that far away from a 4.0 and he isn’t far from automatically qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships next month in Nampa, Idaho. His 2.22 is currently tied for eighth in the nation.
“I plan on auto-ing [automatic qualifying] this weekend [at the SPIRE Division I Collegiate Invitational]” Black said. “I’m just two centimeters away from it. Well two centimeters is a big thing. I just need to keep working and studying what I do.”
To help him do that he keeps a notebook that details everything he does. All his workouts. What he did in the weight room. Observations from video study with his coach. All in order and very personal.
“One of my teammates went into my locker at the beginning of this season, and he opened it up. And it’s kind of like looking into a girl’s diary,” Black said. “I go back and look at some of the stuff. You’re supposed to be writing about what you did that day in practice.
“Like today I did three step approaches. But I wrote in, ‘Today I was feeling kind of sore in my legs. Question mark. Why is that?’ Then I’ll go back and look at what I did last week and why I was feeling sore. It’s pitiful, man. I’m a head case.”
But with a good head on his shoulders. If given the choice of earning a 4.0 or an NCAA title, Black is stumped as to which has greater significance for him. As it stands now, his current GPA helps him meet his current goal of going to pharmacy school. If it goes higher so will his sights.
“I’ll shoot for med school,” Black said. “I’m really interested in drug interactions in the body. Just wanting more. If I had one and not the other, I’d probably be focused on getting that other one the next season. I can’t choose between [4.0 and a championship]. If I got one, I’d want the other one even more at the same time. There is no trade off.
“I’d really like to say the two go hand in hand. I couldn’t see one without the other. That’s not to be cocky about it. But when you’re focused on doing well in class, and focused on doing well in your sport, they just mesh so well together.”