“I don’t want to say I’ve dreamed of it, but I’ve dreamed of it. I knew that [nationals] was my number one goal, and to be able to go and compete is unreal,” said SNHU Track and Field’s Ashley Elder.
Senior Ashley Elder became the first SNHU Indoor Track and Field team member to participate in the NCAA Championships, finishing 13th in the shot put on March 8 and 9 in Pittsburg, Kansas. Some 540 athletes, 270 men and 270 women, competed in events over the two days.
Elder’s best throw was 14.82m (48′ 7.5″), coming on her third attempt Saturday. She had qualified for the NCAA with the 10th best put in the nation during the indoor season, according to the seeding chart released by the NCAA.
Elder spoke about heading to Kansas for the 2019 NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships, and her excitement could not be contained. As she is top 10 in the country for throwing, Elder is driven and determined to compete alongside some of the best athletes in the NCAA.
Raised in Bristol, Connecticut, Elder knew from a young age that she wanted to be a college athlete. However, it wasn’t until her freshman year of high school she picked up track and field. Prior to this, her main focus was basketball. Whether it was bouncing from team to team, playing AAU, or simply being outside, Elder was a jock at heart.
In her sophomore year, Elder began to get scouted and recruited by different schools for college basketball. However, shortly after the process began, Elder tore her ACL in her junior year, putting a hold on her sporting career.
“It was a difficult process for me, mentally and physically,” Elder said, “Mentally, I didn’t feel that I was the athlete I could’ve been.”
As a result of this, Elder began focusing heavily on track and field during her senior year. She even broke a school record for discus and qualified for all-state in the process. SNHU soon caught her eye with a brand-new track and field program, allowing her to “start fresh.”
While she was not recruited for SNHU track and field, Elder put in hard work and dedication to earn her spot on the team. This soon paid off when coaches began to notice her incredible strength, both mentally and physically.
“My coaches pushed me like crazy. They saw a lot of potential in me and kept pushing me, and honestly, it was needed,” Elder said.
Along with the support of her coaches, Elder’s parents quickly jumped on board. While they were hesitant at first with Elder’s decision to be a collegiate track and field athlete, they soon saw Elder’s seriousness and devotion to the sport.
While Elder does get nervous at both small and large meets, she says that it’s all in the control and not getting down on yourself if a mistake is made.
“I just have to turn the nerves and use that as a boost,” Elder said, “They just turn into adrenaline.”
Elder says going in with a positive mindset is important, and keeping that mindset is more important. And though mental training is important especially for the individual sport of track and field, physical strength is necessary. For Elder, this includes lots of sets and reps, along with getting enough sleep and eating well. To keep up with her training and physical state, Elder sets a specific schedule for herself, which plans out the majority of her day.
For this reason, time management is easier for her because she is able to prioritize.
“Know what you have to do ahead of time, don’t wait until the last minute. Be prepared.”
Elder’s success as an athlete can be attributed to the opportunities she has been presented with, such as the new track facility and access to training equipment, along with some of her greatest accomplishments building her up. An especially impactful achievement was the Penmen Athlete award, which was presented to Elder during her freshman year.
“That was an accomplishment that made me feel like I could become the biggest athlete I could be,” Elder said, “It was what solidified me.”
Elder also notes that her teammates have contributed to her success, as well as the team’s atmosphere. While track and field is an individualized sport, Elder says the team’s performance is better overall with the support of teammates.
When asked what drives her to do well and be successful, Elder drew a blank.
“You don’t normally think about these things, like what drives you. You kinda just do it,” Elder said.
She ultimately said, however, that 10 years from now she will be able to say that she was a collegiate athlete and that is what will always be important to her. She hopes to inspire her future children with the kind of person she was in college, and the memories she will have as a result.
Elder’s goals for the remainder of the season include placing in the Top 9 and setting another personal record. For the short-term future, Elder hopes to see nationals again to end her senior year. After graduation, Elder hopes to be a coach. Long-term, she hopes to either be a police officer or a school counselor.