St. Charles North senior Ashley England shifted from cross country to bowling season last week.
Yes, she realizes that’s quite the unorthodox combo. Just let her explain.
“If I don’t have anything to do, I would be lost,” England said.
Closing her career with an all-state, top-25 finish at the Class 3A state meet topped England’s itinerary earlier this month. A blazing, urgent kick over the last quarter-mile allowed her to do even better, placing 11th in a personal-record 17:20 to cap her senior season as Kane County Chronicle Girls Runner of the Year.
“She always is looking to improve herself, so she’s one of those kids,” North Stars coach Shari Hayes said. “She never believes in slowing down. She never believes in, ‘Oh, this is too hard.’ She’s always like” ... help me improve and be a better runner.
England joined the cross country team as a freshman in 2010 with the motive of many fellow athletes state and nationwide. She wanted to amp her conditioning for a different sport later in the school year. For England, a former Strikers Fox Valley midfielder, it was soccer.
A funny thing happened on the way to the pitch, though: England embraced running and the tried-and-true cross country credo that “our sport is your sport’s punishment.” She ascended from North’s fourth runner at state in 2010 to second in 2011 before leading the pack each of the past two Novembers.
Last spring, England elected to compete in track instead of soccer, completing a transformation that includes heightened recent interest from college recruiters. There have been even more overtures since the Nov. 9 state meet, when England shaved nine seconds from her previous PR, established at state last season.
“It occurred to me after the fact, but really when I was running, I wasn’t necessarily running for time, I was just running to make all-state and to get that medal,” England said.
England and classmate Kaylee Wessel were part of four state-bound North teams under Hayes. Both will testify to England’s tremendous focus in that span.
If she’s lagging behind her target time in a workout – even if excessive winds or wet terrain present obstacles – England transforms into a harsh self-critic.
One of the only ostensible times she slipped off her pace actually paved the way to her prep bowling career. England still remembers missing her bus on the Monday after her freshman cross country season ended, encountering friend and kegler Ashley Montgomery and going from there.
St. Charles Bowl typically houses a more laid-back England. She’s admittedly dialed in every time she runs, so don’t take anything as an affront, younger teammates.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to explain what I do and why I do it, because it’s just, I love what I do,” England said. “It’s hard to explain to them why exactly I’m doing it, but once they see kind of the outcome, then it’s easier for them to understand.”
England finished as a narrow runner-up to Geneva’s McKenzie Altmayer at the Upstate Eight Conference River Division meet, won the Wheaton North Regional and took fourth at the Waubonsie Valley Sectional.
She’s eager to compete collegiately beginning next fall, and just as ready to roll a few frames should things get dull.