TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Christine Griggs arrived at Florida State four years ago as an invited walk-on with the women’s distance program, following a distinguished and diverse high school career at Jacksonville’s Episcopal School. Success at the collegiate level came neither quickly nor easily for the Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. native, but a solid junior season provided a glimpse of what would come as a senior, where she became one of the Seminoles most dependable runners in cross country and track.
Her dedication and rise to prominence within the women’s distance ranks led the FSU coaching staff to present Griggs with the 2015 Tracy Pepoon True Seminole Award, which is presented annually to the women’s cross country runner who best embodies the qualities the award’s namesake brought to the program.
A one-time walk-on from Fort Walton Beach with the Seminoles, Pepoon was a two-time cross country and women’s distance MVP by the conclusion of her career.
“I love her spunk,” Tracy Pepoon-Ahn said of Griggs. “It’s really nice to recognize the girls that are key contributors to the team, but are often overlooked because they’re not in line for the MVP awards.
“These are the girls you root for…It’s exciting to recognize them for the effort they put in.”
The product of a pair of athletic parents – Griggs’ father David played Major League Baseball for Baltimore and Milwaukee and her mother Angela was on Essex Community College’s NJCAA national championship team – she starred in five sports in high school.
While it took a while for Griggs to rise to a place of prominence within the FSU program, her senior year has provided unforgettable memories. A fixture in FSU’s top four throughout the cross country season, she celebrated her first NCAA South Region Championship race appearance by placing 20th overall, good for All-Region honors. And she hasn’t looked back.
On Thursday night, she will compete in the 10,000-meter race at the NCAA East Preliminary at Hodges Stadium on the UNF campus, just a few miles from her home. She learned Friday that her season-best 35:02.72 – the No. 10 time in FSU history – was good enough to land the final spot in the 48-runner field.
“Just seeing where I’ve come from the past four years and finally being able to go back to Jacksonville in front of my family and friends and run at such an elite level with a lot of great competitors in the east, it’s a great way to end four years,” Griggs said.
“It was a no-brainer when asked, ‘Which one of your athletes exceeded your expectations,'” first-year FSU women’s cross country and distance coach Kelly Phillips said. “From the first day I got here Christine has been the athlete that always does more than expected.
“Two years ago she probably wouldn’t have thought about ACC’s, now she’s getting ready for the first round of the NCAA’s and fully expecting to be in the top half. She’s amazing. I’m really going to miss her dedication and tenacity.”
Griggs was a standout away from the course and the track as well, collecting All-ACC Academic and USTFCCCA All-Academic honors this past fall. Three weeks ago, she graduated with a degree in hospitality management.
She already has an appreciation for what being a part of the program means to her beyond the athletic accomplishments.
“It has definitely helped on and off the track, having such great coaches this year and such support from family and friends, it makes it a lot more enjoyable knowing all your hard work and dedication to the sport has paid off,” she said. “You see those successes come and you get rewarded for those. It’s not just about the rewards, but it is a great motivation to keep going.”
Griggs is the third Florida high school product to win the Tracy Pepoon True Seminole Award since its inception, following 2012 and 2013 winner Carly Thomas and 2014 recipient Chelsi Woodruff.
“It just shows that no matter where you come from you can make it, if you just keep trying,” said Griggs, who didn’t run in her first ACC Cross Country Championship meet until her junior year. “Getting through those hard moments are what make you grow and make you successful. Seeing who has gotten it previously and even me now, it shows you can do it, you can make it. It’s great to know that it is seen through the eyes of other people.”
Pepoon has a great appreciation for athletes like Griggs. From a walk-on in the fall of 1989 at FSU, she finished her career as not only an ACC scorer, but the recipient of two undergraduate degrees from FSU and an MBA in entrepreneurship. Professionally, she has flourished in the high tech industry, and though she lives in San Diego, follows the Seminoles closely.
“I love the concept of the award, whether it has my name on it or not,” Pepoon-Ahn said. “I’ve always rooted for the underdog, because that’s who I was. I was eventually lucky enough to be No. 1 – I worked hard – but when I was No. 6 no one noticed.”