BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) – West Ridge senior Olivia Nothnagel loves tennis.
“I’d say my favorite thing probably is seeing the progress I can make,” she said. “I like to see the growth I’ve made.”
Her journey to the sport, however, got a bit of a delayed start – until she was a freshman in high shcool.
“I never played tennis,” she explained. “Growing up I was a runner – I did cross country and track.”
For Nothnagel, the appeal of letting loose on the track or course was about using each performance as a measuring stick.
“I would say [running] is more of a mental thing,” she said. “I like being able to push myself and challenge myself – seeing what I could do better and better.”
So, she competed in both tennis and track as a freshman and sophomore at Sullivan Central High School. But, circumstances shifted with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Everything kind of shut down,” she recalled. “So that was really when I got to focus on one sport. I had prayed over it – I was like, ‘what am I meant to do here?’ and I just felt led to tennis.”
Her commitment to full-time tennis intersected with the consolidation of the Sullivan County Schools before her junior year. When she hit the court with the Wolves, she excelled – always eager to see how she stacked up against her competition. There was also a certain determination and hunger to improve with each match. It’s something that only comes to the surface when Nothnagel picks up a racquet.
“I’m not normally aggressive or tough, but I think it really gets to have a different part of me show,” she said.
Off the court, Nothnagel stays plenty busy. She is the leader of two Christian clubs, participates in Yearbook and is part of the National Honor Society. She also has a great responsibility as a student ambassador.
“[It] is probably one of the biggest things I do here,” she said.
Coming to West Ridge following consolidation, Nothnagel wasn’t sure how thing would play out. But, there’s a different feeling now as she embarks on her final few months of high school.
“I think it’s great to see the community we’ve been able to build,” she said. “Most people were not optimistic coming into it, but I think people really love it here and we have a good, strong family.”