ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Gracie Horton was a leader for Troup volleyball

Published 5:52 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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Gracie Horton is a Tiger to the bone. The Troup senior always envisioned herself being at Troup High since she was young, watching her brother play football for the school.

Horton carved out her own athletic legacy at Troup as a member of the volleyball team.

Volleyball was not a sport on Horton’s radar until her dear friend Hailey Clark convinced her to try it out in the seventh grade. Horton went from knowing next to nothing about the sport to it being an integral part of her life quickly. 

“I fell in love with it and it became a place where I can get away from other things in my life,” Horton said. “When I’m on the volleyball court nothing else matters. I feel free.”

While Horton did not come in as a freshman and make an instant impact, she still soaked up as much information about the game as she could. Her skills and volleyball IQ kept improving and before you knew it she was receiving varsity playing time as a sophomore.

“I did not know a whole lot at first and it was rough, but it got better,” Horton said, grinning. 

Horton became a bonafide starter last season as a junior. The team fell in the region tournament and did not qualify for the state playoffs. The team was devastated but also inspired.

Horton and her fellow seniors — Haley Blair, Kaitlyn Walker and Clark — made it their mission to not miss the playoffs this season.

Not only did the team qualify for state, but they also made a run the the quarterfinals where they lost to Central-Carrollton in four sets. It is a ride Horton will not be forgetting anytime soon.

“This season was mind-blowing,” Horton said. “I always thought our team could make it far, but to actually do it and be in those playoff games blows my mind.”

This Elite Eight run was one of the best seasons in the history of Troup volleyball and Horton and her fellow seniors were a large part of that.

The team as a whole shared a tight bond, but the four seniors from this year’s team share a connection that is strong on the court while also going well beyond the lines.

“Just to spend time laughing and enjoying each other even when we are not on the court is what has helped keep us so close and it helped us get as far as we did,” she said. 

Horton, a polite and soft-spoken young woman on and off the court, has a killer instinct off the court. She is ferocious on the frontline and around the net where she has found herself the last couple of seasons.

“I’ve been thrown into just about every position,” Horton said. “I always felt most natural on the left side on the front row, but I like being able to switch sides too.”

Horton has played practically every position since she started playing volleyball. She started as a setter like Clark. That changed over time as her leaping ability around the net became an asset for her teams.

While Troup volleyball is where her heart always lies, Horton also played travel volleyball for many years. She always tried to make sure she was on a team with her fellow Troup Tigers.

“I have been on every single team with Hailey Clark since seventh grade and Kaitlyn and Haley Blair since high school,” Horton said. “We moved over to the same club team and that is when we became attached at the hip.”

The volleyball season, and possibly her career, came to an end just a couple of weeks ago. As it sinks in, Horton realizes how special being a part of the Troup team for so long meant to her.

“It was really, really sad to see it end, but at the same time we were happy with the way we played,” Horton said. “Having to say goodbye to the girls I have played this game with forever was very sad.”

Horton may have an opportunity to play in college as she is currently talking to the coach at LaGrange College, but she is content if volleyball is truly over. Her eyes are now set on becoming a registered nurse whether she gets a degree at the University of North Georgia, LaGrange College or somewhere else. 

Even if she has to let it go, volleyball will always be in her DNA.