Through the first third of the cross-country season, Ashton Chase hasn’t seen another runner finish ahead of her.
The Seymour sophomore is 3-for-3 in first-place overall finishes, winning the Seymour, Bedford North Lawrence and Franklin Community Invitationals.
Her times have steadily improved this season: clocking 20:57, 19:40 and 19:26.
While Chase ran with the front of the pack in 2015, the early successes of 2016 have come as a surprise for her.
“I wasn’t planning on it, but I knew my training would pay off,” Chase said. “I’m proud of where I’m standing right now. I always want to finish. I often ask myself, ‘Why am I running?’ Then when I hit the finish I remember why I love it.”
Owls girls coach Spencer Sunbury said Chase has shown growth in Year 2 with the team.
“I’ve seen a big jump in her confidence coming into the season this year,” Sunbury said. “Last year, she was just kind of trying to find her spot. I don’t know if she trusted in her ability last year like she does now. She is that much more determined. She’s going out and not afraid to put it all out there.”
Through the summer, Chase split her time between running and basketball.
Due to her crazy schedule, Chase said she typically ran solo.
“It was tough,” Chase said. “It’s hard to do both sports, but I found a way to do it. I ran all on my own. I always have my watch with me, it helps me watch my pace.”
Now, in practices, Chase said that Emma Brock has helped push her times.
“They’ve been working together really well so far,” Sunbury said. “Emma Brock would typically be up there, but she’s been injured. Knowing that there’s someone there to work with you makes a big difference. She has taken the charge in pushing the pace in practice.”
Sunbury said that Chase is always trying to push herself harder in practices.
“We need to make sure we’re not overworking,” Sunbury said. “Sometimes on days where we back off and rest our legs a little bit, she’s the type of athlete to keep pushing. I need to keep an eye on her as a coach to make sure we’re getting the correct recovery time. We’re going to focus on times in practice to get her ready.”
Aside from returning to the state run with the team, Chase aims to break Zoey Johnson’s school record of 18:28 in a meet.
Chase said that Johnson is her role model.
“It’s just the way she runs,” Chase said. “She’s doing great at IUPUI in the college level. I want to be like her and go there.”
Sunbury thinks Chase could have a big finish come the postseason.
Chase placed 42nd overall at state last fall with a time of 19:04.
Her fastest time in 2015 was 18:48 at Brown County.
“I think that with sectional, regional and semistate at Brown County, I’m looking at her in the 18:20s if not quicker,” Sunbury said. “She is significantly faster right now than she was at this point last season. I look for her to be 18:40 or so at Brown County in two weeks.
“I would love to see her in the top 30 or 35 (at state). If things work out, I could see her top 25. I have this feeling with her. You know you will get the effort out of her. She’s showing that confidence in herself. If she keeps that — she’s easily in the top 30.”