Some students may struggle to keep up with their work in class, but a track athlete has managed to thrive in both academics and athletics.
Graduate student Peighton Simmons earned All-Academic honors while winning three track conference championships.
“She’s the type of student-athlete we recruit all the time to be here on the mountain. She has higher standards for success, and it shows she’s ready for the real world,” said head coach Damion McLean. “Once she’s finished here, she’ll also have an impact wherever she goes.”
Simmons comes from a family of athletes. His father was a basketball player at Lenoir-Rhyne University and his sister was a sprinter at NC State. Simmons excelled in the triple jump events as early as high school. During her high school career, she won two AAU Junior Olympics National Triple Jump Championships and five 2A State Triple Jump Championships. She was able to associate them with athletic achievement by being a co-saluteer and becoming president of her school’s National Honor Society.
“I am extremely proud of my studies. I’m actually one of those students who will literally cry tears if I don’t do well on an assignment,” Simmons said.
Simmon’s resume saw her compete for North Carolina from 2017 to 2018. During her Tar Heel career, she finished seventh in 2018 ACC Outdoor Championships12th to 2018 ACC Indoor Championships and first at UCS invite participate in the triple jump. After her sophomore season, Simmons transferred to App State where she became an important part of her track schedule.
“I was at a very low point in my life before coming here. Much to my relief, Appalachia State has allowed me to thrive academically, athletically and socially,” Simmons said. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been blessed with amazing grades, winning conference championships, making amazing friends and teammates, and joining campus organizations. Being a student at App has been for me the light at the end of the tunnel.
Simmons started running as a mountaineer. She placed first in the triple jump Appalachian Open with a jump of 12.77 meters, the fourth highest mark in program history. She also helped her 4×300 meter relay team set the school record in the event with a blistering 2:41.58. At 2020 Sun Belt Indoor Championships, she finished third in the long jump and the 4 × 400 meter relay team event, earning All-Sun belt honors in both events. This helped reassure Simmons that being a Mountaineer track athlete was right for her.
“Coming to Appalachia State was like being a freshman again; new school, new people and teammates, new training regimens, new coaches and even an elevation change,” Simmons said. “I didn’t know how it would affect my performance. Having such an impact from the start confirmed for me that being on the mountain was one of the best decisions I could have made.
Heading into the 2021 season, Simmons tried to build on his momentum. But after an ankle injury, she wasn’t sure she would have the same success.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but I was battling ankle injuries through both indoor and outdoor seasons,” Simmons said. “I wasn’t even sure I could make either conference championship, let alone win them both.”
Simmon’s worries were allayed when she became the first woman since 2010 to win both an indoor and outdoor conference championship at the 2021 Sun Belt Outdoor Championships. She won the triple jump with a leap of 12.83 meters to extend her mark as the fourth-best triple jump in program history. At 2021 Sun Belt Indoor Championshipsshe again won the triple jump with a leap of 12.67 meters.
“Being able to do this was like, ‘Okay, if you can do this injured, imagine the possibilities when you’re healthy again,’” Simmons said.
As Simmons hoped, when she became healthy, she achieved the expectations she had set for herself. At the first meeting of this season at Prompt app state, Simmons took off from 13.11 meters in the triple jump. It was the farthest attempt from the Holmes Convocation Center and the second farthest attempt in the program’s history. Simmons also won the long jump after soaring 6.06 meters, her personal best by one foot. Simmons recorded half of the team’s top finishes in the competition. She was named the Sun Belt Female Athlete of the Week On Court for his performance.
“It’s great to win, but if I don’t hit the mark I set for myself, I’m still not really happy with the performance,” Simmons said. “Being able to set the Holmes Center record and be named Sun Belt Female Athlete of the Week was truly rewarding because earning those accolades meant I had achieved my goal: a personal best. foot, and that was the most rewarding of all.
Simmons continued his high level of success this season, winning the long jump and triple jump events at the Marshall Invitational. Jumping to 5.92 and 13.10 meters respectively. She won another one Sun Belt Female Athlete of the Week On Court award, the only App State track athlete to do so this season.
This success reached its climax in 2022 Sun Belt Indoor Championship. Simmons hit his personal best 13.28 meters in the triple jump to win his third Sun Belt Championship. She posted another personal best in the long jump. His 6.10 meters earned him silver in the event.
After graduation, Simmons hopes to pursue a career in psychology, but she’s not waiting until after graduation to showcase those skills. Junior Taylor Smith shares how Simmons stayed calm during the 2020 Sun Belt Indoor Championships.
“My favorite memory with Peighton would have to be my first year in the indoor conference in the long jump finals,” Smith said. “It was just her and me, and I was extremely nervous, but her uplifting spirit and sense of humor helped me get over my nerves.”
Simmons’ time donning spikes for mountaineers is coming to an end as she seeks a successful post-college career.
“After officially hanging up my pointe shoes at the end of the school year, I’ll be finishing my final year of graduate school, so I still won’t be too far off the track,” Simmons said. “After grad school, I hope to gain some work experience in the counseling field before returning to school for the final time, I promise, with the ultimate goal of becoming a licensed psychologist.”
Coach McLean reflects fondly on his experiences on and off the track with Simmons.
“It’s a pleasure to see the ups and downs every time she competes against her teammates,” said McLean. “She makes them better, and they make her better too.”