John Powell, Asst. Sports Editor

In his junior year of high school, Rachaunn Ruffin was ranked nationally for the first time in his life. While most would simply find an award of this stature a simple recognition of their dedication, Ruffin took a very different perspective on the new recognition.

When he was young, Ruffin just played sports that involved running.
“I just like running,” said Ruffin of how he began his athletic life. “Every sport that I played, whether it be soccer, football or basketball, as long as I could run, I liked to play.”

He always had support from his family.
“My father made me realize that I have great potential and that I should never settle for ordinary, even if I win,” Ruffin said of his parents’ impact. “My mom taught me if I lose that there are still people that care about you. I got so obsessed with winning that I thought that if I lose, nobody would care. She taught me that it was okay to lose sometimes.”

He learned dedication from his high school football coaches. Specifically, they taught him how to be mentally sharp and that even when he was tired and in pain, he could push through any physical obstacles ahead.

Unfortunately, he began to push not only against physical barriers in his own body, but also against the pressure to constantly outperform his competition.

Ruffin began to take the new confidence and heightened performance in track to a dangerous level.

“In my junior year, when I was finally ranked nationally, and I had a national medal, I realized that I could be somebody,” said Ruffin on how he began down the dangerous track of letting his running get the best of him. “I never stopped working. I became obsessed with it.”

He did not quite see the difference between dedication and obsession.
“I pushed myself so hard until I rejected my mom, my father, my coach and even my girl — the people who care the most about me — because I wanted to win that bad,” said Ruffin. “I wanted to become known that badly. I realized that you have to relax or you are going to overdo it and not only cause pain to yourself but push others away. At the end of the day, they were still there for me.”

The maturity that he grasped in things like schoolwork did not transfer to his athletic life. He had respect for the Mason administration, who pushed him to be a student first, then an athlete.
Ruffin has an easy grasp on his academics, but found that he filled most of his other time training.

“You don’t have time to digress . . . digressing is not an option,” Ruffin said of his motivation for training. “It’s expectations; even if [my coaches and teammates] don’t say it, I know they expect me not to digress, but to be the best I could be.”

His parents saw the unfortunate situation and had to take a step back to let him learn the danger of what he had allowed track to do to him.
Coming to the team, he saw how this season was truly “our year.” He realized his stature once again when the freshmen and the transfer athletes came and knew who he was.

It took his friends, his family, his girlfriend and some soul-searching to get out of the rut of obsession.
“When I’m in the off-season, I have a lot of time to myself,” Ruffin said of how he prepares. “When I’m at my father’s house . . . I do a lot of soul searching. You want to perfect your flaws and make layouts of what you need to improve on, not as an athlete, but as a person. Mentally, I want to be ready.”

His parents told him that even if he lost, people would still care for him and support him. Even his teammates began to shape him.
“Whether I see them come in first or last, when I see them practice, they inspire me,” said Ruffin of his teammates. “It makes me look at myself and ask if I’m working hard enough.”

Only a sophomore, Rachaunn Ruffin has plenty of time left to make his mark on Mason athletics, more than he has already done. There are plans for his future, academically and athletically.

Ruffin is not just focused on his future as an athlete, but also on how his studies in government can better himself, his country and his world.

“Track is a difficult sport to become pro in and, when you do become pro, the chances of making good money are slim-to-none,” said Ruffin “That’s why government is my major. In my lifetime, I have seen the real United States of America, the good and the bad, and I feel like I have a just cause to help people, somehow, some way.”