By Rubin E. Grant
At one time, Cindy Jiang struggled to balance academics and extracurricular activities.
The Vestavia Hills senior is involved in a lot of activities — a lot! She plays tennis for the Rebels, sings alto in the honor’s choir, is on the math team and participates in various school clubs. In addition, she volunteers at hospitals, churches and the McWane Center.
No wonder she had to figure out how to leave some time to study.
“I had to learn to balance sports and my other activities with my academic life,” Jiang said. “I wasn’t able to do it right away, but through experience I learned to overcome the difficulty of trying to balance it and make it work.”
Playing tennis helped. She began playing the sport in the first grade and started playing competitively in the sixth grade.
“Tennis is an outlet for me, a good distraction,” Jiang said. “When I am on the court, I can just focus on playing and what’s happening behind the lines. It takes the stress off what I have to do for school.”
Jiang doesn’t just find a way to relax on the court, she also competes at a high level. As a freshman in 2019, she won the girls Class 7A No. 2 singles individual state title. Last year as a junior, Jiang reached the Class 7A No. 1 singles final before falling 6-4, 6-1 to Oak Mountain’s Grace Qian.
Jiang also excels in the classroom. She has a 4.7 grade-point average and scored 34 on the ACT.
Her ability to balance sports and academics has paid dividends. She has been named the 2022 Class 7A, Region 3 Bryant-Jordan Scholar-Athlete winner.
The Scholar-Athlete Award honors high school seniors who are both superior athletes and outstanding students. Selection considerations include: scholastic standing, sport involvement, athletic honors, student leadership and civic/church leadership.
“I was definitely surprised when I found out,” Jiang said. “I am grateful to have this award. It shows all my hard work in school and in other areas paid off.”
Jiang will be recognized during the 37th Annual Bryant-Jordan Awards Ceremony on April 11 at 6 p.m. at the Birmingham Sheraton Hotel Ballroom. The event also will be livestreamed for those unable to attend.
The Larry D. Striplin, Jr. Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award winner will be announced during the banquet as well as the Ken and Betty Joy Blankenship Achievement Award winner.
The Achievement Award honors high school senior student-athletes who have achieved success relative to his or her ability or who may have overcome an unusual hardship.
Jiang is one of five Over the Mountain student-athletes who have been announced as Bryant-Jordan region winners. The others are Indian Springs’ Olivia Honeycutt, Class 4A, Region 4 Scholar-Athlete; John Carroll Catholic’s Ruby Thornton, Class 5A, Region 5 Scholar-Athlete; Briarwood’s Holden Patterson, Class 6A, Region 5 Achievement; and Oak Mountain’s Emily Cox, Class 7A, Region 3 Achievement.
Timarie Fisk, Vestavia Hills girls tennis coach, was not surprised to see Jiang’s name among the region winners.
“She’s an amazing student-athlete,” Fisk said. “She’s very well-rounded and a hard worker. She always puts forth her best effort, and she’s always very positive.”
Jiang would love to be selected as the Striplin Award winner.
“It would be a huge accomplishment and a benefit for the future, and I’d like to have something to allow me to afford college,” she said.
Jiang is still deciding where she wants to attend college and what she wants to study.
“I don’t have a top three choices for college and I am pretty open-minded about what I want to study,” she said. “I do want to try nursing or engineering or computer science. It’s going to be hard to decide.”
Her favorite subject is math because it’s her best subject, she said. “I feel like I understand it well, which helps me solve problems fast,” she added. “I really liked learning geometry and calculus.”
Jiang doesn’t expect to play for a college tennis team, but she does want to play club tennis.
Aiming for the Top
This spring, she is trying to help Vestavia Hills capture its first girls state tennis championship since 2016. The Rebels lost in the tiebreaker to Auburn in 2021 to finish as Class 7A runners-up. They didn’t have any seniors last season.
“I definitely believe we can win state this year,” Jiang said. “We have tremendous confidence, and we have the potential to have the strongest team we’ve had in school history. We have won all our section matches 9-0.”
Jiang is a leading contender for the Class 7A individual No. 1 singles title.
“She’s a tremendous tennis player,” Fisk said. “She is a very smart, focused player with a calm demeanor. In tough matches and in tense moments, she’s able to remain cool, calm and collected.”