Watkins claws competition as all-around athlete

Watkins claws competition as all-around athlete

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Jessica Watkins is soon to start her track and field career at Kennesaw State after starring for Fayette County High School in volleyball, basketball, and track. (Photo by Adam Hagy Photography)

Simply put, Jessica Watkins bleeds black and gold, and her heart won’t be changing colors anytime soon. Fayette County High’s all-seasons all-star has paved her path to Kennesaw State with hard work and dedication and little time to rest on her laurels. After a Tiger career where she also starred in volleyball and basketball, it will be track and field where she makes her mark on the next level.
It was only natural for her to play sports year-round. It runs in the family, after all, with her siblings and father both high school athletes. Jessica started out early. First she tried gymnastics, but she joked that only lasted about five minutes. She hit the track at age six, and it stuck. She dabbled in cheering, but track was always the priority. In the seventh grade she got into the volleyball-basketball-track rhythm.
“My siblings were my main role models when it came to sports,” said Jessica. Her sister, Jocelyn, was on the cheerleading, weightlifting, and track teams at Woodward Academy, and her brother, Justin, competed in track, football, and basketball. “Athletics were second nature in my family.”
Tremendous dedication and a great support system have earned her a spot on the track team at Kennesaw State. The Owls knew they had found a gem, and they weren’t about to let her get away.
“I chose KSU because coach Andy (Eggerth) was the first college coach to call my dad on the first day coaches could contact me. He was persistent and made me feel wanted,” remembered Watkins. “Kennesaw has a lovely campus and aura around it. The first time I went on campus, which was for my recruiting trip, the environment was so great, and I didn’t come across another school that made me feel that way.”
Being a multi-sport star was a challenge, but it was one Watkins never shied away from, even when the overlapping seasons never gave much time to rest up.
“During the summer I had track, basketball, and volleyball. Volleyball was the first sport of the year, and, before it ended, basketball workouts began. In the middle of basketball season, track conditioning started. By the end of high school track season, I was gearing up for my AAU track season,” she said. “The main challenge was that I never had any downtime to rest my body, which would then lead to injuries that didn’t have time to heal.”
Her parents and AAU coaches wanted her to cut back and focus on track, but the allure of competing for the Tigers won out. Her persistence paid off. In the fall, she helped the volleyball squad be a perennial contender for the playoffs. In basketball, she did the unheralded work of battling in the paint and making her teammates better. For her gutsy play, she was named the All-County Defensive Player of the Year this season. The top rebounder in her region, Watkins also brought home All-Region Second Team honors and pulled down 20 rebounds in a game more than once this year.
“She was one of the best rebounders that I have coached at Fayette County. She was also our defensive enforcer,” said her coach, John Strickland.
It was in the spring and on the track that she really shined. Watkins dominated at the region meet, winning the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and finishing second in the long jump. She was part of the winning 4×100 and 4×400 meter relay winning teams. Her performances helped push the Lady Tigers to a second place finish.
At sectionals, she repeated as champ in the 100-meter hurdles, 4×100, and 4×400, with a second place finish in the long jump and sixth in the 300-meter hurdles.
At the State Championships, Watkins finished third in the 100-meter hurdles and eighth in the 300-meter hurdles. She was also part of the 4×100 meter relay team that placed sixth overall. She also finished sixth in the long jump at the Georgia High School Meet of Champions, a meet that brings the top competitors from every classification together.
Watkins loved competing for multiple teams at her school, but she knows that path isn’t for everyone.
“My advice is that playing multiple sports isn’t for everyone. It takes someone who is hardworking, driven, patient, and passionate about the sports they’re doing,” she said. “Regular athletes have to have those traits as well, but multi-sport athletes have to have those traits for each of their sports.”
It requires an extra gear if you really want to excel. You have to take care of yourself outside of the lines of competition. When you do that, you’ve got something really special.
“You have to be willing to give 120 percent of yourself for each sport individually without lacking in the other aspects of your life,” said Watkins. “Being a great athlete that can bring more to the table than just their athletic ability is amazing. It’s what sets you apart from the crowd and what will propel you further than you’ve ever dreamed.”

Christopher Dunn

Managing Editor Christopher Dunn has been with the Fayette County News since 2011, in addition to running Fayette Victory magazine. He is a graduate of Fayette County schools, as well as a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in journalism. Follow him on twitter @fayettesports.