Rickii Lee Banks probably won’t take the prom photo she took with her dad, Ricky, when she heads off to Bryan College in Tennessee to study marketing and compete in track and field.
In the photo, Banks is smiling innocently while her father jokingly – or maybe not – holds a shotgun in the background. In all seriousness, though, Banks said she will miss her parents – dad especially – when she leaves home for Bryan, located about 40 minutes north of Chattanooga.
“Everybody knows we have this really close relationship,” said Banks. “He’s been coaching me since I was in eighth grade. That’s gonna be really different. I’m really sad to leave him but I know this is what’s best for me.”
Banks signed a national letter of intent Wednesday. She was joined by her father, mother, Rosa, her Rock Hill coach John Combs and Bryan coach Josh Bradley, who was allowed to attend the ceremony because his school competes in the NAIA organization. NCAA coaches are generally not allowed to attend signings.
Bradley was there Wednesday for an event Banks wasn’t sure would ever happen. She had interest and partial scholarship offers from a number of schools, from as far away as Kansas and including Limestone, but none of them felt right.
“I really know it was God, I know it was him, because all hope was lost,” said Banks. “I didn’t want to go to none of the colleges that were offering me scholarships. I wanted to get away from South Carolina, and some of the offers were mainly for cross country and I did not want to focus on that.”
After some intense prayer, Banks felt that Bryan was the right choice.
“This is really what God wants me to do, so I’m really excited,” she said. “I have a couple, four months left here so I’m going to make the most of it.
Banks will run the 400 meters and likely long jump. She’s a versatile athlete that will keep fit by also running cross country. Banks received about a third of Bryan’s tuition in athletic scholarship and should be able to cover much of the rest through Pell Grants based on her solid academic performance.
Bret McCormick • 803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T