Ayanna Reese walked away from a life of full time missions to become Regent’s first collegiate coach. This exclusive interview dives into the life of a decorated track star from Manhattan.
Coach Reese started her running career at 12 years old and never looked back. Coming out of George Washington High School, Reese was the number three recruit in the country and a part of a national champion relay team. Ohio State University, UNLV, and the University of Tennessee all wanted Reese to run for them.
While Reese was a star athlete, there were other challenges that she faced on her road to a collegiate career. Her last two choices boiled down to the University of Ohio and the University of Tennessee. As Reese was planning to call Ohio State University and reject their offer, her discerning mother told her to accept Tennessee’s offer first. Tennessee, Reese’s first choice, had unfortunately rescinded their original offer of a full scholarship.
At this time, Reese thought of her former club coach’s wise words, “You can go to a division three school and be a star, or you can go to a division one school and have to work at it. Build your success.” Reese decided to take a full scholarship to the University of Ohio and build her success. This was not only the start of Reese’s successful track career, but it was the beginning of her road to becoming Regent University’s first ever collegiate coach.
What was the process of becoming Regent’s track coach?
“Very much God.”
The process of becoming the track and field coach dates back to Reese’s time in Zambia. Reese had been doing missions work in Zambia for approximately four months and absolutely loved it. Becoming a coach was not even on her mind. While Reese was loving a life of missions work, the Lord had called her to something else. Reese had no idea what she was going to do; however, she knew it was time to walk away from a life of full-time missions work. Reese had turned down money, opportunities, and many other benefits to follow God’s plan for her life. In regard to this major life decision, Reese states, “It was a complete faith walk.”
In the midst of uncertainty, Rev. Cheeks called Ayanna and offered a job to be Regent University’s first ever track coach. Reese could not see how starting a track program would align with her goal of spreading the gospel through the nations. However, she agreed to meet with Rev. Cheeks and further discuss the position. Reese told Rev. Cheeks of her passion for the gospel and missions work. Rev. Cheeks replied to Reese with powerful advice, “You need to broaden your view of what God can do and how he can use you to spread the Gospel.”
For the first time since being offered the position, Ayanna began to seriously consider the possibility of building the track program at Regent. After the meeting, Reese contacted key mentors throughout her life. Reese’s collegiate track coach, which she had remained close with throughout the years, told her that she was a perfect candidate for the job. Reese had come to the conclusion that God’s hands were all over this opportunity.
What are some of the toughest challenges as a coach?
“Maintaining the strategy and direction and the focus that God gives me to lead the team.”
There are a lot of unknowns when becoming the first ever coach at a university. Not only is coach Reese managing a diverse group of runners, but she has to face the pressure of building a program from the ground up. While these challenges are tough on coach Reese, she is confident in her abilities, the team, and God’s overarching plan for her life.
Abe Moreno-Riano is the Managing Editor for The Daily Runner