Double win for Pleasant Valley

Pleasant Valley students Anna Bryant, left, and Rachel Faucett are regional Bryant-Jordan Award winners.

Trent Penny

Pleasant Valley High School principal Mark Proper has not one but two reasons to attend this year’s annual Bryant-Jordan Scholarship awards banquet. Seniors Anna Bryant and Rachel Faucett made Pleasant Valley one of just six schools across Alabama to have double winners in this year’s regional competition.     

Faucett is the Class 3A, Region 5 “Scholar Athlete” scholarship winner and Bryant is the “Achievement” scholarship winner for Region 5. Bryant and Faucett each will be recognized with a $2,500 scholarship at the 33rd annual Bryant-Jordan Student-Athlete Awards Banquet. The banquet will be held April 9 at 6 p.m. in the ballroom of the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. A reception for all 104 regional winners is scheduled for 4 p.m. that day at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.

“I think it is very unusual that one school gets both at this level but in this particular year here at our school we have two great examples of what they’re looking for,” Proper said.    

Faucett is the salutatorian of Pleasant Valley’s Class of 2018 and is a track star for the Raiders. She is the AHSAA state record holder in the indoor track high jump.

“I couldn’t be just an athlete or just a student,” she said. “I like doing both.”

She’s also worked part time since she reached her 16th birthday.

“I usually try to get most of school done during school when I have free periods. After school, I go to practice and sometimes I have to leave practice early to go to work. Then I have to work out after practice. My days are full,” Facuett said.

Faucett will attend Auburn in the fall where she will have to decide between “what I really want to do,” a career in fashion merchandizing, and pharmacy, something more “practical.”

“She has been very successful in athletics for the school throughout the state, having several state championships and records. She’s such a great student in the classroom with her GPA and ACT score. That’s, to me, what the Bryant-Jordan Scholarship Foundation wants,” Proper said of Faucett.    

Bryant will attend Jacksonville State this fall. She has received a volleyball partial scholarship from the Gamecocks but her athletic career almost came to an end during softball season in the spring of 2016. At a weekend tournament, Bryant was sitting in the Raiders’ dugout when a foul ball hit her head. Hours later, she was diagnosed with internal bleeding around her brain. Emergency surgery saved her life but her speech and motor skills were impaired. Her doctors told her it was unlikely she would every play any sports again.

“It was difficult, having to start over and learn to walk and talk again, learn how to play volleyball again” Bryant said. “My perspective was really off. I had to practice on that. I couldn’t work out with everybody else.”    

Bryant said hearing her doctors say it was unlikely she would every play competitively again probably motivated her. Early on, “it crossed my mind” that the doctors might be right. Then, after a month of therapy, she could begin to see noticeable progress.

As she practiced her setting that first summer she had to work alone to avoid the risk of a volleyball striking her head. She would set volleyballs toward a basketball goal in the gym. She said she knew she was back when she began ringing the goal with her sets.  

She told her father David, also her high school softball coach, she was ready to return to softball as well, the sport she had grown up playing with him. The elder Bryant would not agree to run the risk of another softball injury so Anna was strictly a volleyball player for her mother, Dana, during her final two years as a high school athlete.               

“I think she is the prototypical Achievement winner,” Proper said of Bryant. “She’s been through a harrowing, life-threatening injury that she had to come back from through multiple steps. She had to basically relearn everything in her life and was still able to keep her grades up and be able to graduate and she’s gone back to participating in volleyball.”

At the awards banquet, an overall winner in each division for the Alabama High School Athletic Association’s seven classes will receive an additional scholarship. Finally, the overall winner for “Scholar Athlete” and “Achievement” will receive even more money. The Bryant-Jordan program’s motto is “Helping Alabama students become the best they can be.”