Pharmacy student named two-time SEC equestrian scholar–athlete
When western team captain Bailey Mierzejewski boarded the team plane Tuesday for the national equestrian competition in Waco, Texas, her in-flight reading was a little denser than most travelers: a pharmacotherapy textbook.
Mierzejewski, recently named SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year for a second straight season, is a second-year professional student at the College of Pharmacy. Staying on top of her studies no matter where competition takes her is a priority as she eyes a career in health care, she said.
“We put a ton of time into academics,” she said. “Our coach always says it’s student–athlete and that student comes first.”
Winning the scholar–athlete award validated her extra effort, Mierzejewski said.
“It makes me very proud,” she said. “I feel like working so hard with my academics and athletics really pays off. I’m very honored to have won it twice.”
Head coach Boo Major said Mierzejewski is a team leader in the show ring and beyond.
“You don’t get any better than being a senior and having a 4.0, in pharmacy school no less,” she said. “Bailey has been the epitome of a student–athlete since she’s been here. She has all the leadership qualities you’d like to see in someone. She has been a starter for multiple years, and she’s always participating in volunteer efforts. And she’s one of our captains — just somebody that everyone looks up to.”
Mierzejewski, who competes in the western horsemanship event, was recruited by several colleges and universities as a high school student in Ohio. The University of South Carolina was the best fit, however, because it boasted excellent programs in both equestrian and pharmacy, she said.
“I’ve always been very interested in health care and science, I loved the chemistry of drugs,” she said. “Pharmacy is a good blend between the science and the patient interaction, which is something I’m really looking forward to when I get into practice.”
Mierzejewski said she appreciates her pharmacy professors’ flexibility with her athletic commitments. She said the faculty have been very accommodating to her and teammate Courtney Allen, as well as women’s soccer player Chelsea Drennan, all second-year students.
The equestrian team’s season starts in the fall and continues throughout the spring, with about a dozen regular competitions. Mierzejewski balances school and sports by breaking down her responsibilities one week at a time in a thorough planner, logging her exams, assignment due dates, team meetings, practices and even dinner with friends.