When I met Quintunya Chapman, we were on a bus headed to class and I approached her because she looks like one of my former basketball teammates from high school. I had to show her a few pictures to prove it and it didn’t take too much to convince her. We laughed and laughed because it was so crazy how identical they were. I was instantly impressed in this moment by her approachability and willingness to laugh with a complete stranger. After sitting down and speaking with her, I realized that is just the person she is. She is known by many as a member of our fifth ranked Lady Bulldogs track team but I quickly discovered that there is so much more to Quintunya Chapman other than her role on the team.
Quintunya, or “Tunya” to her friends, graduated from Bradwell Institute in Hinesville, a small town in south Georgia. She started running track at 11, with long jump as her first event, in which she won state her senior year of high school. Tunya is doing the heptathlon this year, meaning she is competing in seven events (although never all seven in one meet): javelin and shot-put, high jump, long jump, the 200 meter race, the 800 meter race, and for the first time, the 100 meter hurdles. She competed in her first meet of the 2014 season on January 18 in Birmingham, AL at the Auburn Invitational where she took 14th in the long-jump and ran a 9.40 in the 60 hurdle prelims.
In the eyes of the fans (and wanna-be athletes like myself), the life of a student athlete seems like all glitter and gold, but Quintunya says that it’s not always like that. “Not having a social life is what I dislike the most [about being a student athlete]. I have to choose between grades, practice, or friends and I can’t be apart of anything. Teammates are all I have sometimes.” So when asked about what gives her the most satisfaction about being an athlete, she smiles and says, “knowing I’m not the only student athlete going through the same thing. I can’t complain because there are other people doing worse than me but not doing better either.” That is who Tunya is. She’s someone who radiates positivity no matter what the circumstance.
Quintunya is a junior here at the University of Georgia and is a Pre-Excercise Science and Sports major. So when she isn’t practicing or working out, she is diligently focusing on her studies. We chuckled about how difficult physics, chemistry, and biology are. But our conversation took a very emotional turn when we discussed her role model. “Definitely my mom”, she says when I ask her who she admires most. “I’m really close with both of my parents, but my dad was in the military and he was always deployed so my mom was basically raising 4-5 kids on her own.” When there is an issue with sports, grades, relationships, etc., it’s her mom who she turns to. “Without her, I wouldn’t even be at UGA. That is truly my best friend.” She begins to cry but it was a special moment because I saw that there are more important things in life other than track. Her family is important to her and this is what makes her so well rounded as a person.
She is a person who is humbled in her talents. She said that she cried the entire lap when her coach told her she was running the 400. “Track was always at the bottom of the list. I didn’t want to run track in college; I wanted to play basketball or volleyball. I was getting letters as a freshman but I didn’t want to accept that I was good at track,” Tunya says as she reminisces her high school days.
Due to her siblings being older than she is, Tunya had to learn discipline and time management on her own. Through her years running track, she has learned to accept that she can’t change people but has learned to accept them. “I’m no pushover,” she says. “I go to college and handle business”. I believe it’s safe to say that she is doing just that. In 2012, she went to the SEC Championships and took 21st in the 400 meter dash preliminaries and she also was a member of the 4×400 relay team that took 10th place. This past weekend she finished sixth in the Albuquerque Cherry and Silver invite in New Mexico. When I asked her what her expectations for this 2014 track season are, she said: “For me to not give up. My coaches have told me that it would be very hard to train for a heptathlon but they’ve been very encouraging.” She then says, “I have to keep up with this girl that is on my team. She’s like number 2 in the world as a freshman and I just have to keep up with her.” She knows that she wouldn’t be given these challenges if she wasn’t capable or accomplishing them. It is obvious hard work and discipline is what drives her, but there is so much more to Quintunya than her great talents. She’s a real person who values her family and relationships. I want to encourage everyone to follow Tunya in her journey here at the University. She is an important piece in the UGA track team puzzle who I’m sure touches everyone she meets.