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No B's Please

June 17, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– Catching up with Christy Jones can be a bit like running into some of the dreams I have for my own daughters — in three-dimensional form.

She wants something, and she goes for it – full bore. Smart, persistent, motivated uber-competitive and possessed of serious social skills, she didn’t get to be the third straight ACC softball scholar-athlete of the year to come from Georgia Tech just by wearing the same jersey as forebears Jen Yee and Whitney Haller.

Jones takes nothing for granted in the classroom. And she works; not the present tense. Her athletic eligibility has expired, yet she’s in summer school and will take 11 hours next fall on the way to a mechanical engineering degree in December.

Softball is the sport of choice for my twins, who will transition into middle school in less than two months. Coincidentally, it was in middle school that Georgia Tech’s erstwhile Tech centerfielder received perhaps the academic jolt that propelled Jones to four straight All-ACC Academic teams.

Damn that Mr. Higgins!

“I got a B in eighth grade, and I was totally devastated,” Jones said. “I told myself I’m not getting another B, and in high school I didn’t. Mr. Higgins was the hardest science teacher.”

Sure enough, Jones aced her way to valedictorian at Maize High in Wichita, Kan. She hasn’t earned straight A’s at Tech, but she’s come close. With a 3.47 grade-point average, Jones is far from alone on the softball team.

Coach Sharon Perkins’ squad was one of four at Tech that last month was noted by the NCAA for being among the top 10 percent nationally in APR ranking (joining the cross country teams and the golf team). The softball team had a perfect 1,000 score.

Much as the softball team has on-campus company in academic excellence, Jones has company on the softball team. Former teammates Lindsey Anderson, Shannon Bear, Kate Kuzma, Kristine Priebe, Alysha Rudnik, Jessica Sinclair and Jessica Weaver all joined her on the All-ACC Academic team.

Tech had a league-high eight honorees. Throw in the work of Yee and Haller and it’s clear that something’s going on over there.

“I don’t think we’re competing with each other [academically] because a lot of us are not in the same major,” Jones said of her fellow high achievers. “I think it’s mostly the character of people on our team, girls wanting to compete, to set higher goals, and prove what they can do.”

Having led the ACC with 33 stolen bases while batting .342 and finishing third in Tech history with 95 career stolen bases was good stuff, but the end of Jones’ softball career stunk.

She broke a hand in practice leading up to NCAA regional action at Tennessee.

“I dove for a ball and it just happened. Our grass is pretty sticky and if you don’t dive right . . . my hand got caught under me,” she said. “I was happy that I got to pinch-run that last weekend. That’s probably the thing I’ll remember most . . . the emotional side.

“We went from talking about surgery and not being able to play to . . . to where I saw a glimpse of light. It was awesome to get in that game. It was cool of the coaches to put me in.”

The future is not yet set. Jones, whose father is an electrical engineer and whose grandfather is an aeronautical engineer, fancies the idea of one day working in the defense industry. She allows that there remains wiggle room in that plan.

There is no similar equivocation about the start of her journey. She can tell you spot on when and where her academic vision came into focus.

It goes back to Mrs. Norman.

“For me it started in first grade with a particular assignment that our teacher gave us to write our numbers from zero to 1,000, and it just clicked that I wanted to be first one done, and I wanted it to be perfect,” Jones said. “I remember wanting to compete.

“Ever since then, I always strive to have perfect grades. That was easier in high school than it has been in college.”

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