By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - An aspiring architect, Marshay Ryan may want to consider designing a space to display all of her All-America honors.
It will need to be a big room.
The senior became Auburn's first three-time indoor All-American in women's triple jump Saturday, finishing fourth at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in College Station, Texas.
"I think this is the most fun I've had the last four years," said Ryan, a five-time All-American. "It's nice to compete and see my hard work during the week pay off. And things that I want to click being showcased when I compete."
For the past year, Ryan has worked with assistant head coach Henry Rolle.
"I really like his training. We connect well," Ryan said. "His coaching style, the technique that he's teaching me, feels right. I learn pretty quickly. And once it clicks, it clicks. There's no going back for me. Definitely a lot more in store."
Ryan jumped 44.075/13.43 meters at nationals, an inch short of her indoor best.
"Everything I've gone through the four years I've been here prepared me for this season," Ryan said. "Everything has fallen into place."
As a freshman, Ryan finished second at NCAA Indoors. Nine months later, she had surgery to remove her gall bladder. A back injury followed. Ryan pushed through, finishing ninth last year.
"It's hard to compete with injuries," she said. "No injuries, I'm healthy. That's the biggest thing. I'm more mentally strong. And being healthy has been helpful."
In addition to physical health, Ryan also noticed enhanced emotional well-being among her teammates.
"The atmosphere we have with the team now is the best we've had since I got here my freshman year," Ryan said. "We really get along great. You can tell that we connect well with our coaches. We really encourage each other and root for each other. More of a team this year. That's been nice."
An athletic career that began as a 3-year-old gymnast will end in three months when the outdoor season concludes.
"My body. It's been through enough. And I've had a good run," Ryan said. "I never wanted to be a professional athlete. I never wanted to be famous. I'm just low key. Slide under the radar."
Beginning this summer, Ryan will focus full-time on architecture. There's an internship to find. A portfolio to complete.
"Trying to transition and get myself ready for when track is over," she said.
After spring break, Ryan will begin the outdoor season at the Florida State Relays in Tallahassee.
"Nothing to lose," she said. "My last year. I don't really have any pressure on me at all. I don't want to make my coach mad, or disappoint. Or waste the talent that I have."
One of Auburn's most decorated athletes prepares for her final competitions, having grown intellectually, physically and spiritually over the past four years.
"The biggest thing is staying focused and faithful with God and keeping that walk going," she said. "Keep God first, and keep pushing. To not give up and go through what you have to go through, and keep those who are close to you, close to you.
"Thank you to Auburn, my family, my coaches. All the coaches I've had at Auburn. I've learned something from each of them."
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer