June 7, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. - Colorado State senior track & field athlete Ashley Reid became the first Ram to ever receive the Wilma Rudolph Student-Athlete Achievement Award presented by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Athletics (N4A) on Saturday at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) annual convention.
The award is given to student-athletes who have overcome tremendous personal, academic and/or emotional odds to achieve academic success while participating in intercollegiate athletics. Reid was one of five athletes in the country to be honored on Saturday.
Reid graduated from CSU in May with a B.A. degree in liberal arts and a media studies minor. At the Mountain West Outdoor Track & Field Championships last month she placed seventh in the high jump and 11th in the triple jump. Those achievements were the result of great perseverance to overcome tremendous adversity that threatened to derail both her academic and athletic career.
Reid grew up in a custody battle, moving from Texas to Arkansas to Missouri to Kansas and Las Vegas as a child. She finally settled in Olathe, Kan., the place she calls home, and attended Olathe High School. While there she worked full-time as a manager in a local retail outlet and began a record-setting high school track & field career in the high jump, triple jump and long jump.
After a domestic disturbance, Reid was placed into a foster home for the final two years of high school. She felt out of place amongst substance abusers and kids in trouble for theft, and her guardian recognized that. Because of this the rules were bent for her, but someone eventually filed a complaint and she was forced to miss all track practices her junior year.
Upon graduation Reid was recruited by Colorado State assistant coach Tim Cawley, but chose to follow her fiancé, staying close to him on an athletic scholarship at Kansas State. The Wildcats' coach knew her story and gave her a chance, despite missing a full year of practice.
Freshman year at Kansas State
Reid was a late addition to the Wildcats' roster, forcing her to room with non-student-athletes her freshman year. Under their influence, she got caught up in the party scene, and track was not a priority for her. Reid also fell prey to the swine flu, and was quarantined in her room for two weeks, losing 30 pounds.
On one particularly tough day fighting her illness, Reid called a friend to come help her out. Noting her feebleness, he proceeded to take advantage of her. She was then forced to move out amid rumors that she lied to him about her condition.
Reid fell into depression and began drinking alone. After the trauma of her incident and the backlash that followed, she took too many prescription pills and overdosed on pain medication. She was revived and nursed back to health, but didn't tell her mom and stepdad the real story when they came to pick her up in May. She left KSU with a GPA less than 2.0.
Summer of 2010
While on her way home, Reid met her new stepbrother, who had left a difficult childhood in Texas for a new start. She helped him back to his feet and he earned a GED from the same high school she attended. While at his graduation, the speech giver mentioned how she wanted to be like school-record holder, Ashley Reid. Reid called it an eye-opener, thinking, "Why would anyone want to be like me?"
Soon after that she tried to get her life back together, and called the Johnson County Community College assistant coach, Brian Batliner, asking to join the team. Seeing her high school accomplishments, he quickly agreed to let her join.
Also during that summer Reid moved out of her parents' house into a loft with her fiancé, who had started a nutrition company she started working for. Her mom and stepdad were not happy with her decision, and Reid would not to talk her mother for the next two years.
First year at JCCC
Reid began her comeback, but claims she wasn't fully committed during her first season at Johnson County. She started therapy for her alcoholism, but she would only go to track practice when she wanted to, and only attended high profile meets with the team. She and coach Batliner butted heads constantly, but he refused to give up on her.
Despite very little training, Reid placed very high in the jumps events at the championships. She was surprised she did so well, but was still angry she didn't win, knowing that she could have done better.
Second year at JCCC
Reid decided to buckle down, so she started summer workouts and stopped drinking entirely. She also ended what had become a very tumultuous relationship with her fiancé, whom she had hoped was the last negative influence in her life.
With new focus, Reid and Batliner worked together to get her back to a Division I school. She hadn't made it through all of her obstacles yet, however, when she fell ill with endometriosis in 2011. Instead of going in for surgery, Reid was determined to continue training, so she instead took medication for the pain. She had her doctors keep her pills locked away, so she wouldn't have any tendencies to abuse her medications.
Reid was dealt another blow when she learned her older half brother was killed by a drunk driver, but it would not deter her. She evaluated her own life, telling herself not to take her talent for granted.
That year Reid finally lived up to her own lofty expectations, excelling in all three jumping events and winning JCCC's Field Athlete of the Year and five NJCAA All-American awards. She had also worked her way back up to a 4.0 GPA, and even began an academic mentoring group, which is still running today.
Transition to Colorado State
Following the success of her sophomore year of eligibility, several DI schools were interested in Reid, but were also aware of her background. None of them wanted to offer her a scholarship. She was still working full-time, but could not afford to pay for school.
Coach Cawley was also interested in her and gave her a call. She was honest with him about what had happened. He and Head Coach Brian Bedard believed in her and decided to offer her a scholarship. She worked to repair her relationship with her parents and got close to former Ram and Olympic bronze medalist Janay DeLoach, who helped her reach new heights in her first year at CSU, as a volunteer jumps coach.
Her luck changed yet again after an early May snow storm. Reid was walking home from class against traffic on the edge of the road because the sidewalks had not yet been plowed. Across the street a car hydroplaned and slid right into her. She flew 20 feet. Initially, Reid felt fine, but later started experiencing back spasms and immense pain. She was unable to walk straight and couldn't practice right as the Mountain West championships were approaching.
Knowing that her family would be in attendance, Reid powered through, doing as much as she could to prepare for the conference meet. The coaches decided to let her travel to Las Vegas. Fighting through tears because the pain was so severe, Reid placed third in the high jump and eighth in the triple jump. The 6.5 points she scored individually ended up being the exact tally between a third- and fourth-place team finish.
With a new-found sense of glory following the MW meet, Reid continued on to the NCAA West Preliminary in the high jump and made the last of 48 spots available in the triple jump. A 5.5-hour lightning delay frustrated athletes and caused many of them to lose focus, but Reid kept her composure and was ready for the high jump at 11:30 that night.
She cleared the first four bars seamlessly and was tied with collegiate record-holder Brigetta Barrett from Arizona. The next height would be a personal record for Reid. She couldn't clear it, but placed high enough to make her first trip to the NCAA championships.
Placing 19th overall, Reid earned Honorable Mention All-America accolades in the high jump.
Senior year at CSU
Among Reid's relatives in attendance at the MW championships the previous year was her sister, Erica Johnson. Johnson had been experiencing severe stomach pains, but postponed a kidney biopsy for the opportunity to attend the conference meet to watch her sister. She was later diagnosed with lupus that summer. After a grueling three-month battle, she passed on Oct. 25, 2013.
Reid traveled home, missing base training and preconditioning that fall. She admired her sister's courage and strength through it all and said Johnson never lost her sense of humor. She again evaluated her life and how Johnson fought so hard to prolong hers, when she was willing to give it all away. With help from the women's group, RAMBITION, Reid organized the inaugural lupus walk in May of 2014. For more information on the event, click here.
Right before her sister's passing Reid dislocated her tibia. Luckily there were no torn ligaments, but she was forced to miss even more time off the track.
When she finally got back to jumping, Reid was suffering from insomnia and her performance was reeling from the effects of it. Her coach, Cathleen Cawley, mentioned to her, "It would be ok if you took a break."
Those words brought a great force of emotions to the forefront for Reid. She knew the kind of person she was without track in her life. She realized that is what has kept her going, and she couldn't quit. Her coaches were in full support of her decision and did everything they could to help her get back to normal.
Last month at the Mountain West championships, Reid individually she earned two points toward the women's team score. The Rams stole third place by just 0.5 points.
Reid found a message in her story, and hopes that others can learn from it. Winning the Wilma Rudolph Award is something she knows she can now tell herself she deserves for overcoming immeasurable odds.
Reid has a job on campus writing constitutional policies which she will continue through the summer. Reid plans to stay in Fort Collins, go to grad school and train in the triple jump, an event she feels she that has untapped potential.
The Wilma Rudolph Story
A child born into a large African-American family in the 1940s, Wilma Rudolph was diagnosed with several illnesses, including polio. Due to segregation growing up in the South, she was unable to receive adequate treatment from local hospitals, but her mother would not give up, taking her to a hospital 50 miles away twice a week. She was finally able to walk by age 12.
Rudolph became an accomplished basketball and track star, and was the first American woman to win three gold medals in the 1960 Summer Olympics. For more on her story click here.
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