It is anybody's dream to make it to the State meet in Pasco and place in the top 16. But for Meridian's Ashlee Van Den Top, her experience in her final cross season did not go to plan. In her junior season, Van Den Top placed 14th at the 1A State cross meet in 2016, but this past fall, she was nowhere near the podium.
Battling injuries at the end of the season, Van Den Top finished a disappointing 43rd place in the 1A State cross meet.
Ashlee Van Den Top competing at the Bedlington Twilight Invite in Lynden last spring. Photo taken by the Lynden Tribune.
"I was battling some shin injuries the last half of the season" Van Den Top said in a phone interview on Monday. "My training had decreased towards the end of this past year but I believe my shins have gotten a lot better now than they were."
But with adversity, come those challenges to overcome and making progress to be motivated to becoming an even better runner. For the past couple of years, Van Den Top has been dominating at the 1A level, as well as in the Northwest Conference. Last spring, Van Den Top won a total of 20 races including first place finishes in the 800 at the Cashmere Invite and at both district meets.
"I put in a lot of work last track season and I have again this year. I really enjoyed the big invites where I am able to race others at my level of competition."
It is nice to win all those races, but the one race where Van Den Top came up a little short was at the 1A State track and field championships where she finished just a few tenths of a seconds behind Northwest's Isa Meyer, who Van Den Top is very familiar with as she had already beaten her at the Bi-District meet at King's High School.
"During the Bi-District, I was sticking with the lead pack and I was able to outkick everyone at the end and so I was planning on doing the same thing at State. But during the race in Cheney, I let Isa get away from me and I wasn't able to reach her at the end and finished 2nd."
Van Den Top was so close to becoming an 800 champ in what some could argue is her main event, but she would need to go against other competitors that came from the same area.
"Our Bi-District is very tough when it comes to the 800 and there is always tons of young fast people I compete against each year."
Besides Meyers from Northwest, the 800 State race included 2 other girls from the same district in sophomore's Ela Nickels from Bush and Anna Haddad. The difference between those three and Van Den Top is she believes her "old-age" will be the factor in winning the 800 State title in her final high school track season.
"I have more racing experience than some of the other girls and hopefully that can help me out. We all know each other fairly well just from racing each other and it is always a fun time racing the other girls, so it helps that I know how each of them runs their race. Hopefully I could use that to my advantage."
Van Den Top has been running against these girls from the same district the last 2-3 years and has helped her gain knowledge of what to expect from them.
As for college plans next fall, Van Den Top will be attending and running for George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. No other schools were mentioned by her as she said this school stood out the most for her.
Although the 800 is an event she wants to be a State champ in, there are some thoughts maybe even a possible 1600 title as well.
Could Whatcom County see another female 800 champ this year and be the first one since 2015 when Mount Baker's Natalie Smith claimed the crown? We will have to wait and see. You can catch Van Den Top and the Meridian Trojans in their first track meet of the season tomorrow at Blaine High School as they take on the Mount Baker Mountaineers and the Blaine Borderites.