GAC's Tuggle juggles track, tennis schedules

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

At the start of the semester, Jessica Tuggle gets out her calendar and begins to fill in dates.

The days quickly fill up. Tennis match on Monday, track meet on Wednesday, practice on the other days.

Want to invite the Greater Atlanta Christian senior to a birthday party or go to the movies? Good luck getting on her schedule.

"I can't. I'm so busy with school, sports and family, but it's exciting," Tuggle said.

Tuggle bounces from track meets and tennis matches every week, but she still manages to be one of the top athletes in the state. Tuggle won the Class AA triple jump state title last year and ranks among the best in Class AA in three events this season. She'll see where she stacks up against Gwinnett County's best this weekend at the county track and field championships.

"She's been amazing," GAC track and field coach Brad Kinser said. "It's hard in this day and age to do multiple sports, but she's successful in both."

Tuggle has balanced track and tennis since middle school. She started tennis at age 8 with the encouragement from her mother Dujuan and started track in seventh grade.

She's been a four-year starter in both sports, leading the Spartans' track team to a state title last year and the tennis squad to a runner-up finish.

"I think she does a great job shifting from one competition to another," GAC tennis coach Dana Davis said. "She's an outstanding track star, but a great tennis player, too. She loves to compete."

Tuggle's schedule often involves playing a tennis match after school and then going to track practice afterward. If tennis is canceled because of rain, then she just goes to track practice. There is always some competition or some practice every day. Weekends are sometimes the worst as she may have to compete in one sport and then drive 30 minutes to another.

"Running to the start line is my warm up," Tuggle said with a laugh.

That will be the scenario on Monday when GAC's tennis team plays one of its biggest matches and the running finals of the county track meet are on the same day.

"I just asked her how long it will take and she said 16 seconds and I said, 'OK, then sprint up here and we'll start your match,'" Davis said.

Tuggle has had more individual success in track in recent years, but she plans to pursue tennis at the college level. She's considering Valdosta State, where her father and former Atlanta Falcon Jesse Tuggle played football.

"As of right now, I don't have the time to fully commit to it because of track," Tuggle said. "I don't think I've peaked yet. In college, hopefully, I can reach that level and soar from there."

Even if Tuggle didn't play tennis, she would be very busy with just track. Not only is she the defending state champion in the triple jump, she's also ranked No. 1 in AA in long jump (16-11 1/2) and 100 hurdles (15.30). She's also a member of the 400 and 1,600 relay teams.

"For a lot of people, it might be too much. She has that personality that she doesn't get stressed," Kinser said. "We both would love to have her out there all the time, but we understand she's good in both sports."

As much as Tuggle is able to balance her own schedule, there was one thing she noticed earlier this year when she was filling out her calendar. The May 7-8 weekend is home to the girls state track meet in Albany and the tennis semifinals and finals in Jonesboro. Going to both events in one day is likely out of the question, leaving Tuggle with a dilemma later this spring.

"Everyone asks me how do I do it and I really don't know," Tuggle said. "God gives me the opportunity. He works things out. He's going to work the state weekend out for me, I don't know how yet, but we'll see."