Rising star wins US place

A Ripon Grammar School student and rising sports star has been awarded a £250,000 scholarship to study at one of America’s most prestigious universities.

Friday, 23rd April 2021, 12:37 pm

Mena Scatchard, one of the fastest young middle-distance runners in the UK, will be leaving her small village of Hutton Conyers for the hallowed halls of Princeton University in New Jersey.

The exceptionally competitive US Ivy League institution, which this year offered just under four per cent of all 37,600 applicants a place, will pay Mena’s fees and accommodation for four years.

In addition, all her flights, food, sports kit and coaching are being funded by the elite university and the 18-year-old will even be granted a personal spending allowance to ensure she remains debt-free.

“I am really excited. It was quite a moment to get the official acceptance through. I am ready to spread my wings and looking forward to training and studying in America,” said Mena.

Famous former students of Princeton, where annual tuition fees are $52,800 (£37,874), include mathematician Alan Turing, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and former First Lady Michelle Obama.

Mena, who has been crowned Yorkshire Champion three years running and has been talent spotted by England and British Athletics as a future sporting star, applied after hearing about the exceptional sports facilities, training and competitions at US universities.

She was particularly attracted to Princeton because of its strong academic reputation.

“It’s the best opportunity I could have at this time of life to develop my running and I’m confident I can make a lot of progress,” said Mena.

“Academically I am excited about the courses and there are also some fairly impressive internships and international opportunities.”

As well as impressing the highly academic university with her sporting record, Mena, who was selected to run for the England youth team last year, had to sit a demanding four-and-a-half-hour exam to win her coveted place on Princeton’s liberal arts degree course.

In addition, she had to study for aptitude tests required by the American educational system - at the same time as preparing for her A-level exams in chemistry, biology and geography.

Mena, who achieved a clean sweep of top grades in her GCSEs, juggles a demanding training schedule with Leeds City Athletic Club, where she is coached by Kieron Hall, with her A-level studies.

She runs five days a week, in addition to doing strength and conditioning and cross-training work.

“I am just very diligent at when I get home from running, I shower, eat and just get down to my homework.”

RGS headmaster Jonathan Webb said: “Mena has been absolutely dedicated to her cross country and athletics throughout her time at RGS.

“Anybody who has seen her running the streets of Ripon and surrounding areas understand the immense focus and determination she has given to this goal.

“She is a very hard-working student and this is a wonderful and well-deserved achievement for her.”

Mena’s mum Brenda, a former PE teacher, said the whole family was very proud of her.

“Mena has done very well for herself and we are delighted for her. We’re looking forward to visiting her and to watching some Ivy League competitions.”

Her sister Marnie, who also runs as well as playing netball, tennis and hockey for RGS and Yorkshire, is studying for her GCSEs at RGS this year.

“We have always done a lot of sports and activities growing up and Mum runs us to a lot of my training sessions and events,” says Mena.

Mena first got into running when she was 11 years old and competed in cross country at RGS, going on to enjoy athletics throughout the summer season.

By third form Mena, who has also represented her school in hockey, started to take running was more seriously and joined Ripon Runners club.

“I took up running after having some success in school events and I like the way you can achieve progress over time,” she explained.

Despite sporting competitions being curtailed due to coronavirus over the past year, and Mena having to take some time out due to injury, she says: “I have kept up my training and hope I will improve my times this year and have a full season.”

She’s now looking forward to the next exciting stage of her life: “Princeton looks to be a lovely college town and it is only an hour out of New York, so I am looking forward to getting to know the area.

“Everybody seems very friendly so I think I should get a good welcome. The package I am getting is very generous and I feel very lucky that I will graduate debt free.”

She added: “Of course, I will be back in Yorkshire in between semesters and will be keeping in touch with family and friends.”