If you ask anyone on the cross country team who inspires them most the answer is unanimous: Ashley Lara. And not surprisingly it is the team that inspires her.
An accomplished runner Ashley is a three time state qualifier. She finished last season earning All-CCS honors and was named the team’s co-runner of the year. She boasts impressive times on the track finishing third in the WCAL 800 meters. She is on every course all-time list for the Warriors and is one of Valley Christian's best ever. Yet the reason the team finds inspiration in Ashley Lara is not because of her resume, it is because of her work ethic, perseverance and love for her team.
After an intensive summer of consistent training Lara was fit and ready for some big goals this season when a freak accident occurred while playing softball, breaking her ankle. She was disappointed and frustrated but was able to surrender her fate putting the unfortunate incident behind her.
“The biggest challenge of this season would definitely have to be breaking my ankle. When I found out that I broke it I was just crushed," Lara said. "I felt like all the work I had put in over the summer was now gone.”
“I had such high expectations for this season, but as devastating as it all was I had to get over it. Dwelling on my injury wasn't going to get me anywhere so I just decided I was going to do what I could to get back. As hard as it was, I just had to trust in God's plan for me. This was a very humbling experience but in the end not only did I grow in my relationship with God, but I grew as a person.”
It wasn't easy and there were some tough times; encouragement was needed. She found it in her teammates, none more than Shannon Luu. “Shannon is a huge inspiration,” Lara said. “She has been through so much, and she has never thought about quitting, not even for a second. As bad as I might think my injury is, it is nothing compared to what she's been through. I honestly don't think I would be where I am without her. She has helped me so much throughout this whole process and I am so grateful to not only have her as a teammate, but as a best friend.”
Bones heal. After some time aggressive cross training Lara eased back into running, which was welcome news for the Warriors squad. She debuted at the RLS Relays where she ran a personal best split time and helped the team win the Large School division. She followed that up with an impressive run at the Stanford Invitational, and then finished as a top finisher in the first WCAL meet of the year just days later. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. There were good days and bad days, flare ups and setbacks.
But it was at the Clovis Invitational that she gained confidence. She ran a personal best 19:49 for the 5k course, one of the best all-time marks for the Warriors. Ever.
“A big highlight for me was the Clovis Invitational.” Lara said. “Going into the race I didn't really have any expectations. I just winged it. I felt like this was my first successful race. This is where I finally gained back some of my confidence and started to believe that I could actually make something out of this season.”
Lara continued to work hard toward her comeback, a miraculous season that many never would have expected. But she never gave up and at the CCS Championship saw a gutsy performance that helped the Lady Warriors return to the State Championship for the sixth time in the past eight years. “In the end I just put it in God's hands, and decided I was going to do this for my team. The girls had been working so hard this whole season and I couldn't let them down. I love my team so much and I just had to do it for them.”
“I couldn't be happier to be going to state with my team this year,” Lara said. “It was so lonely by myself last year, and it feels good to be able to share this experience with my team again. They all deserve this so much! All the hard work has finally paid off and I can't wait to race with them on Saturday!”
Ashley Lara will be competing in her third cross country State Championship November 30 at Woodward Park in Fresno.
You can check out Ashley's previous Road to State Articles by clicking here: 2011 & 2012.