Take a God-fearing athlete that wants to push herself to do her best in everything she does and travel the world, to experience everything life has to offer and yet, have the small hometown feel of Roswell. Jessica Sudderth of Gateway High School plays volleyball and runs track to get in the best shape possible to do what she loves — becoming a champion in Tae Kwon Do.
“She is a great kid,” Gateway volleyball coach Kerri Pirtle said. “She is very respectful and shows up to practice on time. She’s not the most talented athletically for volleyball, but she tries really, really hard. She’s very coachable and a great all-around kid.”
Sudderth loves the physical contact of the sport and fighting people she never met before. She doesn’t hold a grudge if she loses to an opponent, in fact, she might be on Facebook with them later that day. What she likes about the sport is the discipline of the sport and doing her best.
In July, she won a spot on Team USA juniors and competed in the International Tae Kwon Do Federation World Championships and came back with a bronze medal in individual sparring, a bronze medal in team sparring and a silver medal in specialty breaking.
“With the training, she rose to meet the level of competition at Worlds,” her coach Audra Brown said. “That was drastically higher than anything she had encountered before. It is an extreme step up. It is a high competition defending grand champion juniors.”
In her first match in Buenos Aires for team USA juniors, she fought the No.1 fighter in the tournament and got beat 3-1. She also would go on to lose again, but win enough matches to win a bronze medal in individual fighting.
“She has improved in moving up in competition,” Brown said. “Her intensity has gotten better and she has improved as she has moved up to a higher level.”
If she loses against an opponent bad, that doesn’t shatter her confidence, it only heightens it and lets her know how much work she has to do to get better. If you thought this is a college athlete that has already traveled to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and a host of other places, you’d be wrong. We’re talking about Gateway junior Jessica Sudderth.
“I love fighting better people than me,” Sudderth said. “It makes me more determined to work to get better. I like meeting people and traveling, so it just makes me sharpen my skills.”
Sudderth is a second-degree black belt and has been taking lessons from her grandfather since the age of five. She just started going with him to his gyms and started practicing and kept at it. Her doing Tae Kwon Do was a way for her to spend some quality time with her grandfather, who is also a second-degree black belt. She was a natural at the sport — she liked the sparring, patterns and breaking the boards.
“I loved the fact that even though I was small,” Sudderth said, “I could do everything the big kids could do.”
Don’t let this compact five-footer fool you, she is the reigning two-time Grand champion in Tae Kwon Do for New Mexico, and will look to defend her title in October. To add to her resume, she has won the Grand Champion title in Oklahoma as well.
When training for a fight, Sudderth will practice four hours a day and drive to Portales to fight better competition while training. When she is playing sports at Gateway, she will practice for an hour and a half after volleyball or track practice to stay in shape. She, along with her grandfather Dwayne Worley, teaches Tae Kwon Do at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell two times a week.
When she finishes competing, she would like to be a forensic psychologist. She is a National Honor Society student with a 3.7 GPA and scored a 25 on the ACT going into her junior year. She is looking at attending Denver University. She also is a member of the AssisTeens, which is part of the Assistance League of Chaves County in Roswell.
Sudderth has set a goal for herself to qualify and compete in the 2020 ITF Tae Kwon Do World Championships in Moscow, Russia.