With bright red hair and an infectious smile, Sarah-Anne Brault is impossible to miss unless she's whizzing past you on a track. The dual finance/economics student was recently named theWVU Student-Athlete of the Week for the second time this semester for her achievements on the WVU Cross Country team.
After becoming a 2011 All-American in the 10,000-meter run for the Mountaineers, Brault red-shirted her 2012 indoor and outdoor seasons to prepare for the Olympic trials in the triathlon, a combination of running, swimming and biking — an event she says is her true love. But even while putting her collegiate athletic career on hold for a year, the Winnepeg, Manitoba, native successfully completed her first of two bachelor's degrees through B&E — a Bachelor of Science in economics. Brault is currently working toward her Finance degree, which she will obtain in May.
While Brault was drawn to WVU for the track and cross-country teams, the education she's received completing her dual-degree at B&E has been the proverbial cherry on top.
"I had no idea what I wanted to do whatsoever, so I was undeclared for two years," she said. "I was really interested in economics, so I took a couple classes and I liked it a lot and I liked the program that B&E offered with the Bachelor of Science."
Later on, Brault took a finance class just for fun. "I really liked it, too. I figured I was here for five years so it worked out perfectly (to get dual degrees)." The finance class she took for fun, which later led to her second major, was Financial Statement Analysis with Professor Frank DeGeorge.
"No one takes that for fun, but I did. It turned out great!" she beamed.
One thing Brault loves about B&E is the sense of community. "(B&E is) big enough to offer variety, but once you get up there (in the course sequence), it starts feeling a bit like a family. And I don't think people in every major are like that," she said.
Brault has truly enjoyed the coursework at B&E, including her classes with DeGeorge. She's also fond of Professor Ann Marie Hibbert's teaching style, and said that her Portfolio Management class is her favorite this semester.
"It's a bit of a challenge (which she said was a good thing), and it's applicable. Economics gives a perfect background knowledge to let you see how the finance material can be applied. That's cool," Brault said.
She said she owes a special thank you to Professor William Reece, who worked with her last spring to accommodate her pre-Olympic training and, therefore, allowed her to obtain her Economics degree on time.
"I was trying to qualify for the Olympics, but I had no points," Brault explained. To gain points, she had to spend the spring semester racing. She traveled all over the globe, racing in Argentina, Chile, Barbados, Florida, New Zealand (for a five-week stint), Australia, Japan, San Diego and Madrid. Because of this, Brault was only able to spend a few weeks of the semester physically in Morgantown.
"Dr. Reece allowed me to take a special capstone individually. He allowed me to come see him when I was back from travel, which was only twice throughout the semester, so I couldn't have done it without him," she said.
While completing the capstone course required some creativity, Brault is no stranger to hectic schedules. "I think the B&E's cool because I'm able to fit the school schedule and keep the training. It's flexible enough that I could double major. I've had to learn time management over the years," she said, adding that having easier classes early on gave her the ability to hone her time management skills by the time courses became more rigorous. "I've had four years to learn how to manage. As long as you plan, it's possible to get everything done and do it properly."
She's had to make some adjustments along the way, however. "I tried training for triathlon, which was too much with school," she said. Her current load of cross-country and track, which she feels is manageable, is still incredibly involved.
"We'll run 1 hour to 90 minutes (per day). When we have workouts, it's more time consuming, but those are only twice per week. Then, I swim anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours every day. It's totally manageable if that's what you like to do!" Most people would get tired just thinking about a workout regimen like that, but that's what it takes to vie for a spot in the Olympics and to lead the WVU Cross Country team to a fifth place finish at the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional.
Brault concedes that it can be difficult to juggle some aspects of college academics with athletics regardless of how well one manages time.
"It's hard with group projects, because I don't have the same lifestyle as most people in college," Brault said. "Often, groups want to meet at 9, but I go to bed at 10. Also, traveling is hard. Missing class is not easy, and I don't think it should be. But our coaches are really good about school and sports."
Despite the handful of academic setbacks caused by the rigors of athletic training, Brault has been named to the Garrett Ford Academic Honor Roll and previously was a BIG EAST Academic All-Star.
"I usually get all A's. I've always been a bit of a nerd," she said with a smile.
While Brault recognizes that her education credentials will be valuable as she enters the workforce, she's currently keeping her options open. "What I want to do right after school is race triathlons. It's risky. Things always change post-Olympics. But I'm really proud of how far I have come. Maybe a couple people in the entire world raced as much as I did (last spring), but not many. I'm hoping to train for the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. If I could spend a few years doing that, that would be awesome."
We hope to see her in Rio. But if not, we do expect we'll see her being successful, wherever she may be.