Moving quickly is usually important to Brittany Aveni, so it’s out of character that she asked to delay her entrance into the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine by a year.
As an undergraduate at Duke University, Aveni has been a star sprinter on the track team, recruited from her home in Ohio on an athletic scholarship.
You might see her running the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes, as well as in a variety of relay races. When you’re an elite sprinter, doing something even a tenth of a second faster can represent a major accomplishment.
This year her time in the women’s 400-meter dash ranks in the top 15 in the nation — good enough to earn her an invitation to the United States Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., on June 18-27.
She’ll be competing with the best athletes in the country for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. Despite the uncertainties associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Olympic Games, originally scheduled for 2020, are still tentatively set to proceed in Japan this summer.
Meet Brittany Aveni
That’s why Aveni is delaying the start of her education at the CVM.
After being admitted as part of the incoming class of 2021, Aveni knew that as much as she aspires to become a veterinarian, the fact that she qualifies to try out for the U.S. Olympic team is a rare opportunity that may never come again.
Waiting a year to enroll would also allow her to take part in the track and field world championships in Europe in 2022. That led her to make the unusual request to delay her entry into veterinary school by a year in order to pursue her athletic ambitions. Aveni will now enroll in 2022 as part of the CVM class of 2026.
“I want to thank everyone at NC State for being so wonderful,” she says. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how accommodating they’ve been. I’m so happy and grateful for the opportunity to pursue both my athletic and veterinary medical dreams.”
In the meantime, Aveni has a busy schedule. She recently competed in the Atlantic Coast Conference track and field championships on the NC State campus. Aveni won her specialty, the 400 meters, in a personal best time of 51.6 seconds, and took third in the women’s 200-meter dash.
She also ran the anchor leg of the Duke women’s winning 4×400 relay team, which helped the Duke women’s team tie Florida State for the overall conference championship. Prior to the Olympic trials, she will compete in the NCAA Track and Field Championships, also in Eugene and set for June 9-12.
But while many athletes live for their sport, for Aveni it’s also been a means to an end. And that end is to be a practicing veterinarian.
“Growing up, my room was full of stuffed animals,” she says. “When we played, my room was always a veterinary clinic.”
Aveni is originally from Geneva, Ohio, about 50 miles northeast of Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie. Her father was her soccer coach and her mother introduced her to the world of horses. She had has the necessary athletic and academic talent to succeed in both realms.
“I have always loved animals, and athletics have been a source of happiness and self-confidence. That helped me further my academic accomplishments,” she says.
Although her original focus was soccer, she discovered track as a sophomore in high school, and that sent her in a different athletic direction.
Soccer requires a lot of endurance, and at first, Aveni ran cross country and, during track season, the 800-meter run. But soon her inherent ability to run really fast became apparent to all, and she gravitated to the shorter sprints.
“It became clear that track could make it possible to get the kind of undergraduate education that would help me get into vet school,” she says. “It wouldn’t have been possible for me to attend Duke without a scholarship.”
Majoring in evolutionary anthropology, Aveni spent a good deal of time working on research projects at the Duke Lemur Center where she fell in love working with exotic animals.
Attending undergraduate school in North Carolina allowed Aveni to set her sights on her first choice for a veterinary education — NC State. She also found that North Carolina was a perfect fit for her lifestyle. “There’s no snow,” she says.
Aveni says that she has enjoyed her various experiences with animals so much, she’s unsure what direction she will pursue in her career.
Growing up around horses she thought she would focus on equine medicine. During more recent work with a small animal veterinary practice, she became interested in the possibility of treating dogs and cats. Then the Duke Lemur Center experience piqued her interest in the possibility of specializing in exotics.
“So I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do,” she says with a laugh.
For now, though, Aveni’s sights are laser-focused on the Olympics.
“This year, I truly believe that I have everything in me, and I am capable of qualifying for this Olympic team, which is crazy to even say,” she says. “But if everything goes well and goes perfectly, I’ll be in Tokyo in August.”
~Steve Volstad/NC State Veterinary Medicine