Big day for Tigner
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It was her special day.
More than two months ago, Troup High’s Ashanti Tigner verbally committed to join the track-and-field team at Georgia State University, but at the time she was unable to have a signing ceremony because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday afternoon, that signing ceremony became a reality in the Troup High indoor practice facility, with Tigner’s family members, friends, and coaches on hand to celebrate her decision.
Tigner, who earned two medals at the state meet in 2019, will join the Georgia State track team this fall, and she’ll specialize in the sprint events.
“I would first like to thank God for blessing me with my talent and this opportunity to continue my life-long dream and also further my education,” said Tigner, who was unable to compete as a senior because the season was canceled. “It hasn’t always been the easiest (road) but I’m thankful for every step.”
Among those present for Wednesday’s celebration was LeKuilla Tigner, Ashanti Tigner’s mother and her number one supporter.
“I would like to thank my mom for being such an inspiration of guidance and showing me what a strong black woman looks like,” Ashanti Tigner said. “You’ve always pushed me to dig deeper and words can’t begin to express the appreciation and love I have for you.”
Numerous other members of Tigner’s family, wearing Georgia State T-shirts, were also at Wednesday’s event.
“To the rest of my family for supporting me every step of the way, thank you,” Tigner said. “I would also like to thank all of my coaches, teammates, and supporters who have been there for me throughout this journey.
“These past four years have definitely been ones to remember trough the ups and downs of being an athlete which comes with it demands and learning curves.”
Carla Thornton, who coaches the Troup track team along with James Harris, was happy to see Tigner’s family get an opportunity to be a part of a celebration.
“I know a lot of what she does, she does for her family,” Thornton said. “For them to be able to be there for her for this moment, it’s huge.”
Tigner arrived at Troup in 2017, and her freshman season was cut short when she suffered a hamstring injury.
Tigner returned for her sophomore season, and she raced to an eighth-place finish in the 100-meter dash finals at the state meet.
Tigner enjoyed a spectacular junior season that ended with her earning two medals at the Class AAAA state meet in Albany.
Tigner won the Region 5-AAAA championship in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash, and she also placed first in both events at the state sectional.
At the state finals in May of 2019, Tigner was fourth in the 100 and sixth in the 200.
Thornton admires the way Tigner didn’t let a major injury setback as a freshman slow her down.
“You didn’t let that stop you,” Thornton said. “You grinded, you worked, and you came back the next year and made it to the podium, but you weren’t satisfied. You still had work to do, because you knew you were better than that. You came back harder the next year, and made it onto the podium in two events.”
Tigner would have been one of the favorites to finish on top of the podium last season, but unfortunately she didn’t get a chance to chase a state title
Troup was preparing for its first track meet when the season was suspended, and it was later canceled.
Now, the next time Tigner competes she’ll be wearing a Georgia State uniform, and she believes she has found the ideal collegiate home.
Tigner was told by Georgia State track coach Kyle Stevenson that “I’m exactly what he’s looking for. So, I just kind of made my decision based off that. It’s close to home, and I got a full ride. And they’ve got my major there. I’m going to major in nursing. So I just thought, this will be perfect for me.”
In addition to what she has accomplished on the track, Tigner is also an exceptional student, and she finished with a 4.31 grade point average and was an honor graduate.
Troup High teacher Cindy Thompson was a part of Wednesday’s ceremony, and she fought to hold back tears as she talked about how much of an impact Tigner had on her.
“I taught Ashanti for three years, and I can not tell you what she has meant to me, to her peers, to my classroom,” Thompson said.
Tigner, Thompson added, is “the most amazing role model to all of her peers.”
Niki Watts, Troup’s principal, said “big things are on the horizon for this young lady, and her Tiger family will continue to be her biggest fan as her journey continues. Georgia State is definitely getting a good one, and we are so proud to call her one of ours. Congratulations Ashanti. We are so proud of you, and wish you nothing but success.”
Tigner is leaving Troup High behind, but Thornton made sure to let her know that she can always count on her former coach.
“I want to thank you for trusting in me, and believing in me, and you know me, this is a lifetime thing,” Thornton said. “If you ever need me, I’m always going to be here.”
While Tigner is eager to begin her college journey, she’s appreciative of the time she had as a member of the Troup High family.
“As this chapter ends and a new one begins, I’ll take the memories and life lessons and continue moving forward,” she said. “With you guys by my side, I know I can accomplish all my dreams. I’ll always and forever be a Troup Tiger. This is where it all started for me.”
Tigner, addressing everyone who was there for her on Wednesday, said “thank you all for coming and sharing this moment with me. Next stop Georgia State.”