As her kids dedicated themselves as stalwart cross country, as well as track and field, athletes at Chattanooga Christian School in the early 2000s, Sonja Mullins knew she likewise wanted to invest in the sports as more than just a mother supporting her children from the bleachers.
So Mullins started keeping the books and various other data points.
“It was better than sitting in the stands for four hours at a meet,” she said. “So, I started keeping the books and now I’ve been doing something in the track and cross country world for the past 22 years.”
Mullins didn’t stop when her sons’ prep racing careers ended, and she hasn’t stopped working with youth track and cross country athletes in the decades since, earning selection this month as the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association’s Distinguished Service Award winner for November.
“I’ve done everything from scoring to now I own my own timing company,” Mullins said of TXC Timing, which works closely with both the TSSAA and TMSAA as well as myriad schools in the Chattanooga area. “And I do most of the timing in the Chattanooga area for all cross country meets and track meets. Usually, I’m the meet director and timer.
“I just continue to do it because I love the kids and enjoy the people I’ve met. I’ve made some great friends and worked with some incredible athletes and kids and that’s why I’ve continued to do it.”
While one son, Andrew, is an assistant track coach at Cleveland High School, Sonja Mullins’ world of working cross country as well as track and field meets has turned into a family affair for all of them, including her husband, Danny, and other son, Matthew.
It takes the household working together, along with Sonja Mullins’ sheer force of will, for a busy season of events.
“So this past fall, and I’m just finishing cross country today,” Mullins shared in a recent phone call. “I did 24 meets between elementary, middle and high school. Probably closer to 30, because I also help with elementary and middle school meets for the Chattanooga Independent Schools Conference.
“In the spring, it’s 15 to 20 meets and that doesn’t include state meets. We do the state pentathlon and decathlon, as well as middle school and high school state track. From August through November and from March through May, it’s extremely busy.”
Still, it remains a labor of love for Mullins. She’s reminded as much on this day while tearing down equipment from a season-ending meet.
“I really have enjoyed doing it, and I’ve got this T-shirt that says, ‘Inspire every kid you meet,’” Mullins shared. “It’s been my passion through the years, to inspire kids.
“I had a girl come up to me from Cleveland (today) just to say, ‘Thanks so much for cheering us on at all our meets.’ Or, sometimes they will come up and say, ‘Mrs. Mullins, can we have our picture made with you?’
“It’s become something we do as a family, and I enjoy that time. I think that’s what I enjoy the most, the chance to help young kids.”
TSSAA is proud to honor Sonja Mullins for the years of contributions she has made to student-athletes in track and field and cross country.