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Freshman Lady Tiger ranked 16th in nation, third in state
Track coach Readie Kelly (left) stands with Tiger track star Quintunya Chapman and her mother Cenita. The freshman is ranked third in the state and 16th in the nation in the 400-meter race. - photo by By Patty Leon / Coastal Courier
Running against some of the fastest seniors in the state at the Georgia High School women’s state track meet May 3, was a lone Tiger freshman, Quintunya Chapman.
At the sound of the gun the 400-meter race was off and, 55.895 seconds later, Chapman stood in the winner’s circle with second place. It was another stitch in the runner’s sneakers as she climbs to the top of the state.
As a freshman, Chapman is currently ranked third in the state and 16th in the nation for the 400-meter dash. The 15-year-old has already been selected and has participated in five junior Olympics. She ran in her first when she was just 12.
Chapman’s family moved from Fort Riley, Kan., to Fort Stewart about three years ago. A multi-sport athlete, she started playing basketball for the Fort Stewart girls team and teammates encouraged her to run track with them.
“I never ran track until we moved to Hinesville,” Chapman said. “I didn’t know what it was, but after the first year I couldn’t quit.”
The sprinter also excels in the long jump and the relay, but her main claim is the 400-meter dash. She runs with heart and determination.
“If I see somebody ahead of me I just can’t let that go,” she said. “I just go and run and I don’t quit until the race is over.”
Chapman said she never thought she would be ranked as high as she is. She said running started as something to do during off-season of basketball and volleyball to stay in shape.
“It’s just starting to open up for me and it’s a talent that I now appreciate,” she said. “Before I just did it to stay active, but now it might get me into college.”
And she has a preference.
“The University of Tennessee, “ she said.
“She plays volleyball, basketball and track,” her mother Cenita said. “But she knows for us it’s the grades that matter the most. She is an honor roll, grade-A student. She is aware that her athletic abilities are a God given talent, but without the grades she won’t make it so we always push education above everything else.”
Cenita Chapman said it was Willie Daniels, the track coach for Fort Stewart’s Elite Rockets, who brought her running talents to their attention. The Rockets are currently training for national in Detroit in July.
“When the coach saw her running a practice warm-up, he immediately asked who she was and said she would be a 400-meter runner,” she said. “She has been running ever since, and here we are. It’s awesome, we are very proud of her.”
Being the last of five kids gave Chapman another advantage. She is an independent thinker thanks to the support of her family and is not likely to follow others down the wrong path.
“If I have any problems I usually go to my parents for answers,” Chapman said. “I don’t let the other kids influence my decisions.”
“I thank God that she has parents who are already molding her and she listens,” Lady Tiger track coach Readie Kelly said. “She believes in doing the right thing herself and she is a role model and leader for the rest of the athletes.”
Kelly said she began to watch Chapman’s progress in the seventh grade.
“I started to see what I would be able to do as a coach to develop that skill,” Kelly said. “When I saw the potential she had and the athleticism that she possess I thought to myself ‘I have an Olympian here.’ I compare her to another former track star, Delisha Milton, at this stage. As a ninth grader coming out and being balanced in every sport and excelling in every sport I placed her just ahead of Milton and that is saying a lot. To place anyone in the same arena as Milton is an accomplishment.”
Kelly said the focus is to keep her from any injury that would hinder her performance as well as keeping her focused on academics. The coach said she enjoys watching her run against senior rivals at state.
“To see her run against some of the best seniors, and here she is a freshman, and to compete the way she did was just a sight to see,” Kelly said. “Think about where she can be when she is a senior.”
Cenita Chapman said she is a Volunteers fan as well and hopes Tennessee will be her daughter’s future.
“But ultimately the university that can offer her the most would be acceptable as well,” she said.
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