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Storm's Tuttle leaves softball to flourish in cross country

After growing up playing softball Providence junior Tayler Tuttle has emerged as one of the state's top girls cross country runners in Class A. Tuttle has given up the sport of softball to focus on cross country after placing sixth in last year's state meet.

After growing up playing softball Providence junior Tayler Tuttle has emerged as one of the state's top girls cross country runners in Class A. Tuttle has given up the sport of softball to focus on cross country after placing sixth in last year's state meet.

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After growing up playing softball Providence junior Tayler Tuttle has emerged as one of the state's top girls cross country runners in Class A. Tuttle has given up the sport of softball to focus on cross country after placing sixth in last year's state meet.

Tayler Tuttle always dreamed of playing college softball at a big-time school.

"The goal was to get to college and play D-I," the Providence junior said.

Tuttle imagined herself playing college ball alongside her triplet sisters, just like they've done since they were 7 years old.

"I always wanted to play softball in college and my sisters do, too," Tuttle said. "That was kind of the goal."

That all changed last fall. With the encouragement of some friends, Tuttle joined the cross county team. With limited experience, she flourished in her first season despite splitting time on the diamond.

Tuttle gave up softball this year and has become a legit contender for the Class A state championship later this fall.

"This year she emptied it all out and is going for the running," Providence coach Charlene Preg said.

Tuttle grew up playing softball with her triplet sisters McKenzie and Brittany. As a freshman, she helped the Storm to a state runner-up finish in that sport. She ran a few local 5K road races and posted some decent times, which encouraged her friends to get her out for cross country.

In her first race she had success, finishing seventh overall out of 153 runners.

"I already knew we had a gem. It didn't take any length of time to tell she was prepared in the summer for the season," Preg said. "The way she carries herself is just so relaxed and comfortable. She's got the gift of running."

Tuttle was fifth at the Gwinnett County meet last year, racing against some of the state's top runners from higher classifications. She won the Spalding Invitational, the Asics Invitational and the Region 5-A championship. She finished sixth at the Class A state meet with a time of 20 minutes, 1 seconds.

She had all of that success despite splitting time between cross country and softball.

"It was a challenge because I had to let down both teams a lot," Tuttle said. "It was pretty hard. It worked out OK, but I kept having to say, 'Oh sorry, I can't be there.'"

Tuttle made meets and games her first priority during the week. Some days she would get in a run workout before softball practice. There were even days when she would run a cross country meet and then go play in a softball tournament all day.

"I was pretty tired," she said. "I was a catcher, so my legs were pretty tired."

Toward the end of the softball season, Tuttle knew she should couldn't go through another year like that. She gave up softball to focus solely on running.

"I didn't really think about that I wasn't able to focus on cross country," Tuttle said. "This season I thought about how many workouts I missed last season and how I could have done a lot better."

The change has made a difference. She was able to add more training miles over the summer instead of playing travel softball. She won the NEGA championship to start the season and placed seventh at the Clara Bowl Invitational at Berry College. She knocked 23 seconds off her time at Berry from last year.

Tuttle goes into this weekend's Gwinnett County meet as one the top runners after being an unknown a year ago.

"Well, she's definitely naturally talented and has a drive to do the best she can," Preg said.

Tuttle used to channel that energy into softball, a sport she shared with her sisters. But she decided to split off from them thanks to her recent running success.

"I did like the connection we had through softball, but it is kind of nice to do my own thing and kind of branch out," she said.