For 24-year-old Jenna Ralston of Burnaby, athletics had always come first when she was attending high school at Heritage Park Secondary in Mission.
An accomplished basketball player, she learned from current SFU head coach Bruce Langford, but when it came time to decide what university she would go to, Ralston had to leave home.
"I didn't have the grades to get into SFU," said Ralston. "And SFU had a very strong recruiting class, so the best I could do was get a recommendation, and that's why I ended up at the University of Manitoba."
Ralston would play three years in Winnipeg, living in residence on a floor with other athletes and scholars. By her third year, the 5-10 forward got sick - a bad strain of mononucleosis followed by tonsillitis - and while sitting on the sidelines, watching her teammates, she realized that her basketball future was closer to the end than the beginning and she needed an alternate plan.
"I could see I wasn't going to make the national team, and I decided I wanted to do my studies in athletic therapy or physiotherapy."
Ralston transferred back to Capilano.
In the last two seasons, her grades have been spectacular - she's carrying an A average - and her basketball game has gotten even better.
Voted a second team B.C. college all-star in 2011, she was voted PacWest player of the year, a firstteam conference all-star and won the Basketball B.C. college female player of the year this season.
Even as she was accepting her Basketball B.C. award on April 21, she was modest about her basketball achievements.
"Even though some coaches said I would win, I had so much respect for the other candidates," said Ralston of Carling Muir of Langara and Jocelyn Jones of Vancouver Island University. "I'm really happy for winning."
A natural power forward, Ralston played all five positions for the Blues this year, showing her versatility and willingness to help her team in any way possible.
"It was toughest playing the one (point guard)," said the lanky student who shares a North Burnaby residence with several roommates. "I know I can go and post up any time, but when they needed me to handle the ball, that's what I did."
She cites as her basketball heroes former SFU guard Teresa Kleindienst and Canadian national team member Kim Smith, along with Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
Ralston intends to complete her degree by 2013 and then do a master's program in athletic therapy or physiotherapy.
Ralston had originally planned to go to the University of the Fraser Valley with friend Tessa Klassen but decided to go to Cap instead to finish her degree.
Proud parents Barb and Russ beamed at how far their daughter has come.
"She's always had the drive to play basketball," said Barb. "She picked it up in Grade 7, and she's been going up and up with it ever since."
Russ is even more proud that Jenna has used that same drive in her academic studies.
"Once she started concentrating on her academics, she's been on the dean's list ever since," said Russ. "She's worked so hard to get where she is now."
Ralston is now giving back to the game, helping coach a u-16 provincial team.
"I'll always love the game," she said. "I think I'll always find a way to play the game for fun, but for now, I want to really concentrate on my studies."