By Chris Rydburg

This is the first in a series of features about Miami University's brightest student-athletes. Their exceptional academic performance during the recently completed spring semester earned them a spot on the roster of the RedHawks' exclusive Straight A Team. In addition to their rigorous schedules on the athletic fields, each of these individuals earned a perfect 4.0 grade-point average this past semester. Overall, during the 2011-12 academic year, Miami's nearly 500 student-athletes earned an impressive cumulative 3.17 GPA in the classroom, an all-time best.

OXFORD, Ohio - Rising junior Sarah Tirrell is one of Miami's distance runners on the track and field team and also competes on the cross country team. Her commitment to going the distance, however, extends beyond the track and into the classroom where she recorded a perfect 4.0 GPA this past spring semester, one of just 23 RedHawk student-athletes to do so and one of just five from women's track and field/cross country.

When the Peoria, Ill. native (Tirrell now calls North Canton, Ohio home) isn't on the track or at the recreation center, she can be found logging countless hours in science laboratories as she studies her passion: animals. Tirrell is a zoology major and a member of the Pre-Vet Club at Miami where so enjoys hanging out with other animal enthusiasts.

"I want to be a veterinarian," Tirrell said about her career after college. "I always liked science in high school so zoology seemed like a good choice when I got to college."

With a demanding major and a difficult schedule due to track and cross country practices, Tirrell says she had to adapt quickly to being a collegiate student-athlete.

Tirrell said the key to maintaining her pristine GPA while still running is focus. "It takes a lot of planning ahead and hard work."

This fall, Tirrell will be going on a big adventure, one that will take her far away from the comfort of Miami's beautiful campus. She was selected to participate in a study of elephants in Thailand where she will be interacting with the exotic animals and form both a scientific and personal relationship with them.

"I'm very excited about (this opportunity)" Tirrell said, barely able to contain her enthusiasm.

Don't let her dinosaur nickname, Sarahdactyl, fool you, however. Tirrell is far from being cold-blooded. She has approached everything she does with heart and determination. She needed that gumption when she made her decision to attend Miami, as her twin sister had selected the same school before her.

"We didn't actually plan on going to the same college," Tirrell laughed, "she actually wasn't very happy when she found out I was going here."

Despite the initial sibling squabble, Tirrell says life couldn't be better having her sister on campus.

"Miami is big enough where we don't see each other that often. We have been together all of our lives. It's nice to know she is here. Both of us like it here so much."