Grace Tinkey is unarguably the greatest Georgia High School and Middle School Cross Country runner in history. Qualifying 3 times for Foot Locker XC Nationals is a feat in itself. She later went on to have a successful career on the collegiate level and hints she may not be done yet. She is a cinch to make the Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame as well. Let's catch up with Grace..
Tell us about your running career in HS, how many state titles you won and other honors you earned.
Every runner's story begins with a starting line whether that's stepping out your door in the morning for some morning miles, toeing the starting line, or just making the decision to be relentless in chasing goals for yourself and your teammates. Behind every runner is a support system that got them to that starting line and without them none of this would've been possible. The people that remind you constantly of your "why", your teammates that you cry with, push each other through those hard workouts and off days, and the moments when you know you're so invested in each other doing well that you will do anything to drag each other to the finish line.
High school was lucky enough to be surrounded by not only our high school teammates but having the Macon Tracks Running Club family, April Cassell, Sam Martinez (team POD), and Ray Friedman (all those FL running training miles) that never failed to pick me back up and motivate me to keep going no matter how crazy a goal or dream seemed.
2008, 2009, 2010, 2011- GA State XC champion
2009- 3200m Track state champion, 1600m runner up, part of 4x400 meter relay championship team.
2010- 3200/1600 Track state champ
2009, 2010, and 2011
3 time Footlocker XC Nationals Finalist
2008, Sports Illustrated "Faces in the Crowd"
Where did you compete at in College and how you did there?
To any person reading this remember that your story will never be the same as anyone you meet but that's the beautiful thing. For what it's worth it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. We can make the best or the worst of every circumstance. I hope you strive to make the most of it and do just that. I hope you feel things you have never felt before. I hope you meet the people who are like family and those who have a different point of view to challenge you and make you better in the long run. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the courage to start over again.
I was lucky enough to have had two different schools that I competed at during my college career and one year being able to compete with the cycling/ running team down at Savannah College of Art and Design when working on some credits for my major.
At Furman University the phrase "Start Small, Think Big" was engrained in our heads from the very beginning under Robert & Rita Gary who believed this small D1 School had every chance to make a name for itself against all the other big powerhouse running programs. And they have 110% made that program dream a reality. One thing I'll forever credit them for is providing opportunities to try and make USA teams, and developing a program to put you in the best position when you toed that starting line, no matter who you were up against. The two years wearing the purple and white uniform got to be a part of:
USA team NACAC in Trinidad & Tobago
SOCON Championship XC team 2013/ 2014
After my sophomore year I transferred to Adams State University under the coaching of Damon Martin in Alamosa, Colorado. "Today is a good day to have a good day. Be relentless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire. #Bleed Green" -- a phrase that resonated from there. Colorado is a place that has had a special place in my heart since high school and can't thank the Adams State program enough for taking me under their wing and have the opportunity to represent the Grizzlies for the two years competed with them. The team dynamic wasn't just being a part of a team it was a family. During my first season competing with them had the honor of being on the D2 National XC Championship team in 2015 which will forever be one of the most unforgettable moments running into your teammate's arms at the finish line knowing all those miles on miles together came together on that one day and paid off.
2015 D2 XC Nationals Championship team
2015 All American D2 XC Nationals
2015/2016 RMAC XC Regional Champ
Mt Sac 10k qualifier 2016
During my last year of college I worked at the Air Force Academy as a photographer, and a graphic designer in Colorado Springs and can't thank everyone I worked with there for the opportunity to do something I love for something I've had a passion for since high school. Being about to serve in the military is something that has been on my heart for a very long time and last May got on a plane headed to Air Force Basic Training to chase a dream that has been there from before I could remember. If you have a dream, don't ever stop chasing it. Keep doing the little things over time to make it happen, and above all else don't ever give up. As far as running I don't think that chapter is over yet. Right now my priorities are to be the best I can at my job and learn all that I can everyday but one day hope to be able to represent the AF on a running scene but one day at a time and just so thankful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity right now.
Anyone you want to thank along the way?
I can't tell you how things will look for you a year from now. But I can tell you that God is going to put you in situations to make you grow and be strengthened in the way you were meant to. When (not If) you fall, keep getting back up and putting that step forward. Don't ever let anything or anyone keep you down. And most importantly never forget to tell those you love how you much you appreciate and love them because they can never be told that enough. For everyone the past 14 years that always reminded me to look up toward your dreams and not back because we're not going there, thank you.
For all those who reminded me that attitude is a choice, kindness is a choice, happiness and optimism is a choice, thank you. For those who gave me tough love, thank you. For those who taught me the importance of communication, thank you. Without every single person and situation that happened in high school to today, I wouldn't be where I am without those tough days, those amazing ones, and those days realized God has a different plan than my own.