Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Alumni News: Catching up with 2003 Valley Christian Graduate Ashley Monfort

One glance at the Valley Christian record books and you will see 2003 Valley Christian graduate Ashley Monfort at the top of it.  A decade later she is still one of the all-time bests at the 100, 200 and 400 meters.  Her senior year Monfort was CCS Champion at 400 meters and finished third in the 200 meters qualifying for the state championship.  She was also the WCAL Champion in the 200 and 400 meters.  Her personal best time of 56.32 still stands as the #2 all-time mark at 400 meters for the Warriors. 

Monfort attended college at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on a full track & field scholarship. She majored in journalism where she reported for the university newspaper as a sports, feature and news reporter.  She is currently one of the beat reporters for NBC12 in Richmond, VA.   Still competitive as ever, you can help her win a friendly work competition by “liking” her Facebook page: CLICK HERE!

What was your high school experience like in the early days up on the hill?

My high school experience was interesting.  I started Valley my Freshman year of high school before the current campus was even built.  So to be there when it opened was a pretty awesome experience.  It was (and I’m sure still is) a beautiful campus. To be completely honest, I felt very out of place.  It was my first private school and I was in culture shock. I had gone to public school my whole life and Valley was a complete culture shock.  My mom suggested that I start playing sports to make some friends.  It worked!  I met great people on the sports teams and some of them I still keep in touch with today. What I liked about Valley was that it was ‘cool’ or ‘okay’ to be successful, smart and goal-oriented.

You were a top sprinter and CCS Champion at 400 meters… but you also ran cross country.  What did you like about the longer distances?  Did it help your sprinting?

I started as a cross-country runner actually.   Running longer distances helped with my endurance and kept me in shape during the ‘off-season,’ when I was a freshman and sophomore.  (In my junior and senior year, I  no longer had off-seasons because I trained on a club team: Heritage Track coached by Scott Evans and Anita Bolton).  I did love running trails (still do).  When you’re running a trail it gives you time to think…about anything.  And  I found that if there was anything troubling me (school, family, friends, etc.) it no longer did after a nice run.  Sometimes I would use that time on the trail to just pray about anything that was on my mind.

Honestly, I had a hard time with the longer distances. Mentally, it was very hard for me. I loved the 400m because it was fast but you still had to have stamina, endurance and speed…and you could see the finish line.  You can’t see the finish line in a cross-country race.  But what I loved about running was that what happened in that workout or that race was all up to you.  It was up to your body and what you told yourself mentally. You could be in the best shape of your life, but if you didn’t believe in yourself, your training and if you didn’t have faith, then you already lost before you even lined up on the starting line.

Looking back what was your best race in high school?  What was it like winning the CCS championship at 400 meters?

My best race, believe it or not, was not winning the CCS championship in the 400m.  It was the year before, when I placed 4th in the 400m at the CCS finals.  It stands out in my mind because I had no business in the Top 8.  I had run in the high to mid 60’s as a sophomore.  Up to that year, I never thought I would break the 60-second mark. I was blessed with amazing coaches including two very special people, Scott and Anita with Heritage Track.  They coached at Valley for a couple of years and they believed in me. I remember at the beginning of my junior track & field season they pulled me aside and said, “You’re going to be one of the top runners in the CCS.”  I laughed and didn’t think it was possible.  But they told me to believe in their training and most of all, have faith and believe in myself and amazing things were going to happen. 

They were right.  I knocked off a bunch of time (the exact amount, I don’t remember).  But making it that far in the 400m that year…even though I didn’t make state…was exhilarating.  That was the race when I knew big things were going to happen.

Winning the CCS Championship in the 400m was amazing as well.  I  had worked so hard during the summer and I sacrificed so much for that day.  (I didn’t go to prom because the race was the same day!  I also didn’t graduate with my class because that was the weekend of the state championships).  The goal that year was to be undefeated in the CCS in the 400m.  I don’t remember a lot from the race, but I remember feeling extremely nervous at the starting block and coming off the turn and hearing the crowd.  Almost anything can happen at the championships and my main goal was to leave it all on the track.  I believe I ran that race as hard as a I could and left it all there because I can’t remember much from that day.  

How was running for the University of Hawaii?  What helped you transition from High School to College?

Running for the University of Hawaii was a great experience and so unique from any other college runner in the country.  We were on an island so the only way we could compete was to FLY  to the mainland EVERY OTHER WEEKEND.  I suspect I missed about two to three months of college every year because I ran cross-country, indoor and outdoor track in college.  I was given the opportunity to run in a number of states including Washington, California, Texas and Iowa. We ran in big meets like the Texas Relays and Drake Relays.  In high school, sometimes the only people cheering for you are your teammates.  At Texas and Drake, there were 20,000 people cheering for everyone.  That was an amazing site.

Running in college is COMPLETELY different. It’s a business.  It’s a job. And you have to perform. That means you keep up your grades, balance your life and perform because that’s what you were recruited to do.  There is support but you can’t expect anyone to hold your hand.  It was the first time I realized….whoa, I’m a grown-up!  My teammates became my sisters and my family, without them I don’t know how I would have survived.

What helped me was talking to my coaches and other  runners who had already made the transition from high school to college They helped me to prepare for the changes.  When I got to college I didn’t keep in touch with my family as much as I would have liked.  If I could go back I would have changed that and called them more often than I did.  You go through so many changes when you go to college and you need support from people who know and love you.  When you pile on being an athlete, I think it’s a lot harder. Not only are you learning to be independent, but training, the pressure and even how you eat is completely different.  Nothing is the same. But the key is to embrace it and adjust. 

What do you love about being a journalist and do you feel being a competitive runner has helped you in this field?

That list would go on forever!  No day is the same as the journalist. Sometimes you witness history, and you get to tell the story!  You meet different people every day.  From the teacher who’s effected by the budget cuts, to the woman who worked on the President’s campaign and was chosen to meet him,  to the mayor,  the governor and other lawmakers…the list of people can vary in one week.  It’s not an easy job and it can extremely stressful.  But I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little girl. This has been my dream and I feel blessed with how many opportunities the Lord has given me.  A good journalist is the voice for people who may not always be heard.

When you are a runner you must be disciplined, goal oriented, aggressive and not afraid to go for it.  These qualities transfer over to the field of journalism.  You do the same thing as a journalist, but instead of competing in a race, you are competing to get that good story or interview.  

Do you still run today? 

I still run, but I no longer compete.  I ran my first half-marathon with my fiance in November and a few 5k’s before that. Running now is just for fun. 

What advice do you have for high school student-athletes who are interested in journalism?

You want to be a journalist?  Do it.  But do it for the right reasons.  Do it because you love to tell a story, because you love seeing history happen right before your eyes and/or because you love to write.  Get involved in the student newspaper or yearbook.  Read and watch the news outlets you admire.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the people who are doing the things you want to do.  I’ve realized people in this field actually like to help up and coming journalists.  We know how hard it can be. Never give up on that dream.

Final Thoughts?

I’ve been blessed with people in my life who told me to pursue my own dreams and to not do anything unless you genuinely LOVE it.  Doing what you love is never easy, but the benefits and the path you end up following will be something you never dreamed of. Don’t do anything just for the money or the prestige. But it takes a lot of sacrifice and faith.  I believe in the power of prayer and surrounding yourself with people who love you and will give you the kind of advice that benefits YOU not them.  Never be afraid to ask questions or for help.  I admit high school was a very difficult time and I didn’t always feel like I fit in.  But if you have an idea of what you would like to do and you have something you are passionate about, pursue it now and it will start the path to something amazing.

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