By Fran Hunt
Special to Greene Publishing, Inc.
Aucilla Christian Academy varsity softball pitcher Taryn Copeland, 17, signed a full two-year scholarship Wednesday, January 26 in the ACA auditorium, to play for St. John’s River State College Vikings.
“This is a very exciting opportunity at Aucilla,” said Principal Richard Finlayson. “We have watched Taryn grow as an athlete, as a student, and mostly, as a person. We wish to thank her parents, Tom and Debbie Copeland, for sharing Taryn with Aucilla Christian Academy.”
Softball Coach Edwin Kinsey briefly spoke of Copeland’s playing ability, her performance as an individual and member of a team and of her leadership on the field.
St. John’s River State University Softball Coach Rachael Wilkinson added, “This is a thrilling moment for us to finally have Taryn officially signing to play for St. John’s. We are very excited to have her and know that Taryn will be a great addition to the team.”
Debbie Copeland said, “We wish to thank all of the ACA coaches and we encourage all the youth athletes, if Taryn can do this, with the same hard work and dedication, you can do it also.”
Tom Copeland added, “God has given Taryn a talent and she has really developed it, and the coaches have helped.”
To students present during the ceremony, Finlayson said, “Make sure you use the best God has given you, work hard with it. You do that, and you can be where Taryn is now.”
Taryn Copeland said of her softball career, “I started playing tee-ball in kindergarten, and started playing softball in second grade for a recreational league. I knew I was a natural ever since I picked up a softball!”
Copeland was one who received support and participation from her family members at an early age. “I used to play in the yard everyday with my dad and brother. We would stay out there until dark doing all kinds of drills and games,” she said.
Copeland has attended many camps to improve her game.
“I started taking pitching lessons in sixth grade, switched pitching coaches the next year and she has been my pitching coach for five years now,” Copeland said. “She’s a great coach and has taught me most everything I know.”
Copeland makes it a practice to join different teams during the off months to better her ability and keep her sharp on the field.
The honors awarded and the different kinds of teams she has played for over the year have been many. Copeland was named the ACA JV softball team Most Valuable Player for the 2006-2007 season; moved up to the varsity team in the seventh grade, in the 2008-2009 season she was the ACA Best Defensive Player; for the 2008-2009 season she was named to the second team All Big Bend Team; in 2008 she became the starting pitcher for the ACA varsity team, a position she had remained in throughout the 2011 season. During the 2009-2010 season, she played for the Thunderbolts Travel Team. In the 2007-2009 seasons, Copeland pitched during the Regional Finals.
Copeland continues to train for softball in different ways. “I train throughout the year running, conditioning and lifting weights. I try to do some kind of workout every single day, because it builds my confidence and endurance on the mound as well as the batter’s box. During the season I run every morning and we lift weights three times a week before practice.
So what serves this young athlete as motivation for all she partakes in? “I try to push myself as hard as my body will let me because I want to be the best I can possibly be. I don’t want to look back one day and say that I didn’t live up to my full potential, so every chance I get to work out, run or pitch, I take it,” said Copeland.
Throughout her pitching career at Aucilla, Copeland’s statistics have been phenomenal. In her freshman year on varsity, she chalked up a 13-5 season, striking out 61 batters. She specialized in three different pitches and her speed averaged 52-55 mph. In her sophomore year, her record was 22-4, She pitched 140 innings, striking out 130 batters, specialized in five different pitches and built her speed to an average of 59-60 mph. As a junior, her season record was 11-8. She pitched 110 innings, striking out 120 batters. She specialized in six pitches. Her speed improved to 60+ mph and her batting average was .264. She did miss playing in seven games due to a pulled muscle. Statistics for this season have not yet been tabulated.
Other than being an exceptional athlete, Copeland also remains an exceptional student, making straight A’s. By the time she graduates, she will have completed almost a year-and-a-half of college.
Copeland also participates in other sports at ACA. “I have cheered at Aucilla for five years and was co-captain in my eighth grade year on JV and my senior year on varsity. I played basketball at ACA for four years and I ran cross country this past year,” she added.
In her senior year, several other colleges have approached her about playing softball for them. The colleges include Methodist University, College of Central Florida, Pensacola State, Liberty University and North Carolina Westland.
Now that she has signed with St. John’s, Copeland already knows what she plans to study in for a career in the future. “I know for a fact I want to do something in the medical field. I want to go into pharmacy but I would also love to go to medical school to be either a dermatologist or anesthesiologist,” she said.
In closing, Copeland wished to add, ”First off, I want to thank the Lord for giving me the talent to play the sport I love most. I want to thank my parents for giving me everything and supporting me for the 12 years I’ve been playing ball. I want to thank Mr. Edwin for hanging in there and coaching me all these years. Thank you to my pitching coach, Ms. Lori, for preparing me to pitch in college. Thank you to all of my teachers for helping me whenever I needed it. And thank you to all of my friends and my boyfriend Jake for supporting me and being there for me no matter what I love you all so much.”