By Denise Spann - MileSplit Correspondent
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When COVID-19 stopped Asya Reynolds from earning for her second All-American honor in March, she unknowingly gained the opportunity to compete for a partial sixth year. At that point, the heptathlete was toward the end of a successful career at Michigan State University that included a Big Ten heptathlon title, breaking school records and being named MSU's Co-Female Athlete of the Year.
But after five years of competing for MSU, Reynolds, a 2015 Lyndhurst Brush High School graduate, decided to transfer and will be joining the University of Georgia, the 2018 NCAA Indoor National Champions.
"When COVID-19 happened, I just felt like nothing was guaranteed," she said. "I've been leaning towards leaving MSU for a little bit now, but I also just knew that I'd get this chance only once in a lifetime ... I feel like I fit into this program. Their workouts and coaching style fit me, and I can see myself transitioning into adulthood there."
At the beginning of this recruiting process, Reynolds was too nervous to enter the transfer portal out of fear that no one would be interested. But she soon got responses from conference giants like Oregon, Kentucky, Miami, Texas Tech and Tennessee.
Reynolds choosing to be a part of this SEC powerhouse adds another standout to one of the best multi-event programs in the country. She will join high school national record holder Anna Hall and Canadian U20 national record holder Nina Schultz -- not to mention, Olympian Kendell Williams, who was fifth in the heptathlon at the World Championships in 2019, also came from the Bulldogs' program.
"Most people wouldn't be excited to come in as the underdog, as the person with the least amount of points by 300 plus," she explained. "But I just feel like it will make me work harder and I feel like I'll be right up there with them once I get into the groove of the training. I'm just super excited to workout with them and be in that mix of girls, it's a crazy mix."
Reynolds will also be working directly under head coach Petros Kyprianou, who's coached his fair share of world, conference and national champions, record holders and Olympians.
"I'm so excited to work with him," Reynolds said. "I'm a little nervous looking at the workouts he's sent me. But this is what I asked for, this is what I want, I've been waiting for this and I think I'm mentally ready too."
For Reynolds, becoming a Bulldog is more than elite athletes, coaches and national titles; it starts with chemistry and effort.
"I wanted a family," she said. "I want the team to have serious chemistry, I want my teammates to be comfortable with me and I want to be comfortable with them. I want to be a part of a program where they take it very seriously like this is your life - which it is - more like a job. I just want that type of atmosphere, so I know nobody's slacking or wasting my time."
The former Spartan realized she had the talent to compete at an even higher elite level after winning the heptathlon at the 2019 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Reynolds scored a personal best and school record of 5,520 points, which allowed her to make her debut at the NCAA Outdoor Nationals Championships, where she earned second-team All-American. She used this momentum to have her greatest indoor season to date, scoring 4,105 in the pentathlon to rank No. 11 in the country.
Looking back on her pre-Big Ten days at Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Brush, Reynolds remembers a time where she thought she'd become collegiate 400-meter hurdler - she's still top-10 all-time in Ohio.
Besides entering new territory of this program, Reynolds will also be making the transition of leaving her long-time home of the Midwest. As a lover of Cleveland to her core, living in the South, having access to Waffle House, and chasing her other aspirations is everything she could have asked for.
"I'm excited to just move on and start over," she said. "My goal was to either move to California or New York anyway. So, to move somewhere there's a scene for music, modeling and for track, I'm just so excited to start my adult life."
However, regardless of what happens in Athens, the heptathlete won't forget all she's learned as a Spartan.
"I've learned that I can take where I've come from and things that I've been through and just transform that energy into the track and into my training," Reynolds said. "I've allowed it to motivate me and help me become who I am - a school record holder, Big Ten champion, and All-American. I've just learned a lot here; I've learned how to grind here."