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April 11, 2024

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Rayah Blood: embracing the challenge

Rayah Blood
BGSU Athletics
Rayah Blood

Even as a child, it seemed inevitable that Rayah Blood would make a splash in her future college sport.

“My high school dive coach always ran a summer camp through my school community at the school pool…I always enjoyed doing tricks off the diving board, [so] I tried it out and instantly fell in love!”

Blood enjoyed diving early and had a self-professed knack for it. Despite this, it wasn’t clear where that would lead.

“II really wasn’t sure what potential I had…I was just putting my videos out there and seeing who reached out to me. The previous dive coach reached out to me through email, and I found out more about the program through her. I came out for a visit when I was visiting other colleges as well, and just the community feel here, the team atmosphere, I fell in love with that. One of the important things for me was that the swimmers and the divers had close relationships, and it wasn’t like two separate teams in one…Everyone was super welcoming to me.”

The atmosphere was always important to Blood, and at BGSU, she found exactly what she was looking for.

“I think the team atmosphere being as encouraging and supportive as it is really helping our performances in the pool and on the boards. Hearing people cheering for you within the team is really encouraging, and knowing they have your back and want to see you do well, for me at least, makes me want to get better and improve in the meet atmosphere.

But as is the case in any sport, that does not erase the challenges of making the jump to collegiate competition.

“The college season is much different from high school in terms of the longevity of it. In hs my season went from August to November, and now my season starts at the end of August and goes until the beginning of March. Also, the intensity of training is different, you are practicing for longer, you are lifting more, so that was an adjustment, but a good adjustment.”

But there is a clear difference between getting by and excelling. Even so, Blood knows what she wants to do.

“I would say right now is a good look at what I want a successful season to look like. This is the first season that I’ve had MAC diver of the week twice. The past two seasons I have only had it once, so I’m happy to be standing out a little bit more in the conference. I want to record some more top 3 finishes if not first place finishes at meets. Looking at the MAC I’d like to place in the top 8 on both boards this year. The past 2 years I placed top 8 on one board and top 16 on the other…I’d like to podium on both.”

Blood’s ambitions are well within reach. So far during the 2023-2024 season, Blood has finished 3rd or better in one or more events in all the team’s meets, certainly living up to her own expectations.

But Blood’s achievements go beyond the diving board. In the classroom, she’s a Health Science Major and on the Pre-Physical Therapy track. While options for Graduate programs are open, Blood has already been accepted by Grand Valley State University, where she presently plans on attending.

Despite her professional aspirations, Blood has unfinished business with diving after her career as a Falcon is over.

“I’m not sure yet. My club coach back home and I have talked about it a little bit about possibly trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials meet; so after this season, I may, depending on how my body feels and if I want to, try to attend the qualifier meet to see if I can compete in the actual Olympic trials meet just for one last hurrah in the sport. I think I could see myself coaching after I’m done with my education and have a good hold on my career. Maybe at least at the high school level or something I could see myself coaching or helping with a club.”

All these achievements stem from Blood’s motivation to self-improve.

“When I am facing adversity or going through a hard time, I want to get better, and I’m willing to put in that work to get better.

Michael Retcher, BGSU’s assistant diving coach has no trouble seeing why Blood excels.

“Every athlete at this level has some success based on work ethic, but the difference in Rayah’s work ethic is that she attacks her weaknesses the hardest. She does not just do what she likes or is good at; she looks at what deficiencies or weaknesses she has and works the hardest on those. That is a big drive for the success she has had in the last few years and in her whole career. That is one thing that sets her apart both as an athlete in her success, and on the team.”

But more important than her drive for success is the content of Blood’s character. Coach Retcher brought up something that Blood was too humble to mention; for the second year in a row, she was named a Captain for the Swim and Dive teams at BGSU. This position is elected by a combination of the coaches and athletes on the team.

“On a team of 39 girls, only about a fifth of our team consists of divers, and so for her to represent the entire swim and dive team as a captain speaks to her character…[which] is a big part of who she is.”

When strong character and drive for self-improvement meet, success is nearly inevitable. Blood exemplifies these traits, finding the things that will improve herself and her team, and diving in headfirst.

For more stories related to BGSU Athletics, follow Falcon Media Sports Network on X (@bg_fmsn).

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