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Original Issue

One Fast Mother

After 20 years and two kids, a runner returns to collegiate competition

Go, mommy, go!" isn't commonly heard at college cross-country races, but Phyllis Hines Tuggle isn't the typical college athlete. A senior at tiny Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga., Tuggle is 43, a mother of two--and, as of last Saturday, the NCAA Division III Southeastern Region cross-country champion. This weekend she'll run in the national finals in Colfax, Wis., with daughter Helen, 10, and son Paden, 6, rooting her on. "When I hear people along the course shouting 'Go, Mommy,' I can be pretty sure they're talking to me," she says.

Tuggle ran cross-country at Vanderbilt in the early 1980s but left school early to train for the 1984 Olympic marathon. After a foot injury ended that dream, she took up cycling and won five U.S. national titles, then settled down with her husband, Clyde. Two years ago Tuggle, who had decided to finish her German degree, found out she had NCAA eligibility left. School and family obligations limit her workouts (she's lucky to run more than twice a week), but last year she finished eighth in the Division III nationals--the best payback for opponents who mention she's as old as their mothers. Says Tuggle, "I think it's funny."