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WSU sophomore takes high jump to a new level

Sports Reporter

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Wichita State’s Ashley Petersen is transcending all expectations in her sophomore season — qualifying in high jump for the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., beginning on June 11.

Originally from Allegany, N.Y., Petersen began competing in track and field when she was in seventh grade, though she wasn’t initially a jumper.

“All my friends were running track, so I did it as well. My brother also ran track and I wanted to be better than him at sports. I was a sprinter most of my life, but once I became a sophomore in high school I got more into high jump,” Petersen said.

In high school Petersen exhibited her primitive high jumping skills and potential quickly, qualifying for the state meet in all four years of school finishing as high as fourth place individually. She holds all but one invitational record.

Petersen is the high school record holder in the 4×100 meter relay and high jump at her high school Alleghany-Limestone.

Despite Petersen’s success in track and field, when it came down to considering competing collegiately, track wasn’t the only sport she was considering.

But Petersen’s brilliance in high jump would eventually lead her to WSU.

“In high school my real goal was to go college for soccer, but then I started getting better at track. I then wanted to go to school for both, but couldn’t find a school that I liked that had both.

“The summer of my junior year in high school I competed in the Junior Olympics and the final meet was at Wichita State, that’s how I found out about the school. I wanted to get away from home and WSU seemed like a great place to go. I also really liked how Coach Bolt presented himself as a coach, too,” Petersen said.

Since arriving to WSU, Petersen has improved remarkably. Her personal best in high jump improved from 5-feet-7-inches to 5-foot-10 and a half inches in two years of training.

Petersen credits her coaches, teammates and family as contributing factors to her early success.

Petersen said her coaches helped her develop a more refined high jump approach by working on her curve, going more in depth with situations, and becoming more detailed oriented.

“Focusing on the little things,” Petersen said.

Petersen’s family and teammates have been unconditional with their love and encouragement. Battling a few injuries, Petersen said her family and teammates have always been there to help her keep focused and provide encouragement to get through them.

“Her family is a big influence and supports her immensely. I believe they have been to every meet except one and they are from New York,” high jump coach Scott Parker said.

Petersen’s growth, hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence certainly haven’t gone unnoticed by the coaching staff.

“Ashley has grown significantly as an athlete during her freshman year when she developed confidence by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor. This year with the increased confidence she was able to continue improving her technique and it all worked together for a much more consistent sophomore year,” Head Coach Steve Rainbolt said.

Ashley is not only a tremendous athlete she is a great teammate. Her impact on the team athletically and as a teammate played a pivotal role in the team winning the 2014 Missouri Valley Outdoor Championships as a team.

“Her impact on the team and the success she has had as a student-athlete has only been positive. Since the beginning of the season Ashley has definitely matured as an athlete and a person. I can say that the high jumpers have quite a special bond between them,” Parker said.

Rainbolt believes that Petersen’s prior success in the Missouri Valley Conference and consistency catapulted her into an early leadership position.

“The increased confidence that she came into this year with has caused Ashley to become a leader on our team and a girl that other athletes look up to for leadership as we battle for Missouri Valley Championships. I feel like her leadership was significant in our winning the Missouri Valley team championship,” Rainbolt said.

Competing at the national still feels surreal for Petersen, but she is starting to believe she is one step closer to the Olympic dream she promised her parents.

“I don’t think it has clocked yet that I am going to nationals. I just think because I’ve always said to my parents that I will be in the Olympics someday. Now I am one step closer to the dream I’ve had for a long time,” Petersen said.

Petersen envisions herself becoming an All-American and the coaching staff share the same sentiment. Bolt and Parker are optimistic about their star athlete’s ability for this year’s National Championship and beyond.

“The greatest expectation that I have for this first trip to the NCAA finals is that she keep her head about her and compete well on this significant stage. If she is able to do that I could certainly envision her jumping up and being first-team All-American – but second-team All-American will certainly happen if she competes well like she did at the NCAA Preliminaries in Fayetteville,” Rainbolt said.

At the end of Petersen’s high jump career at WSU, she hopes to have earned a professional contract and break the school record. Her ultimate goal is to be remembered and have a profound impact on her teammates.

“I want to be remembered as one of the best athletes that has ever participated in Wichita State Track and Field. I want to be remembered as a hard worker and someone who would always support their teammates through everything. I hope one day that I can set the school record and make it a record that won’t be beat for years to come,” she said.

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