Scholar Athlete: Ferriday sophomore juggles athletics and academics

Published 12:05 am Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ferriday High School sophomore Jalen Russ carries a 3.6 GPA while also running the 1600m and 3200m races for the school’s track and field team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

Ferriday High School sophomore Jalen Russ carries a 3.6 GPA while also running the 1600m and 3200m races for the school’s track and field team. (Sam Gause / The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — With a district championship under his belt, Ferriday High’s Jalen Russ isn’t stopping anytime soon.

But it isn’t just on the track where he is excelling.

The Ferriday sophomore, who captured the title as a freshman, also boasts a 3.6 GPA, and is one of the top students in his grade.

“He is a great kid to coach,” Ferriday head track coach Cleothis Cummings said. “The thing about Jalen is he has self-motivation and that is one of his best qualities. He is always striving to get better and that is what we want from our athletes.”

But Cummings was quick to say that Russ knows what is going to get him far.

“His academics are up there with some of the top in the school and that is another characteristic that is going to take him a long way,” Cummings said.

The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree, with Russ being the son of two track stars.

“My mom and dad both ran track in high school,” he said. “I run the same as my mom, the mile and two mile. My mom and dad push me everyday. It is that driving force behind me and I know they support me in everything I do.”

Russ, who said his favorite subject in school is math, is hoping to use that to propel himself into a career as a pharmacist.

“I know that medicine is an important field,” Russ said. “Some people out there need those medications to survive, and I want to be able to help and be a benefit to those less fortunate.”

But when Russ isn’t buried in a textbook, he is breezing by his opponents on the track, and Cummings said he thinks he has the potential to be great.

“Jalen has great potential because he is relentless and that is part of what drives him to be a good distance runner,” Cummings said. “Everybody can’t run distance. It takes a special individual to run distance and I tip my hat to him.”

Despite being young, Russ has already assumed a leadership role on the team.

“I’m the veteran in my distance group,” he said. “So I try to push those guys and try to give them a role model to look up to.”

Ultimately, Cummings said he has a special talent at his disposal in Russ, both on the track and off.

“That is A1 quality,” he said. “That is the best you can get.”