Sophomore walk-on makes impact on SDSU Track and Field by fulfilling her goals

Zach Anderson

Zach Anderson

Growing up in small town Flandreau, S.D., Ashley Larson learned to be a leader in her sophomore year of high school. On a track team that lost its veterans to graduation, Larson stepped up.

At Flandreau, Larson qualified for state twice in throwing, placing fourth and sixth respectively at the competition. During her senior year, she was team captain in track, basketball and volleyball, and was the team leader for throwers her sophomore through senior years. She also received the Coke Unsung Hero Award during her senior year for athletes that stand out in their sport.

She competed in basketball, track and volleyball all four years at Flandreau High School and played softball during the summer. When she was 16 years old, she played on an 18 and older softball team that placed second in the state tournament.

Larson, a sophomore health promotions major, is a walk-on thrower for the track and field team at SDSU. Larson knows the value of hard work paying off, even if not immediately. She competes in the shot and hammer weight throw for the Jackrabbits.

Her journey to SDSU started when she got a call during her senior year from her current coach Jessica Sommerfeld. Sommerfeld told Lason she should walk-on at SDSU. Both of Larson’s parents graduated from SDSU, which made her decision easier.

As a freshman at SDSU, Larson was selected as athlete of the month for December in 2006. “Ashley is a great addition to my throws squad and the team as a whole,” said Sommerfeld. “She is a very hard worker and leads by example. She watches what others do to learn more about her own technique and to help others. She always puts in the extra effort to better herself, and her efforts push her teammates to improve themselves.”

A walk-on athlete does not always have it easy. “There is a huge time commitment with no immediate athletic-related aid,” Sommerfeld said. “These student-athletes go to ‘work’ every day and do not receive any financial reward. These athletes have an opportunity to prove themselves and work into aid if there is aid available, but there is never a guarantee. It is all about self-gratification and love of the sport.”

SDSU is competing at a Division I level, which makes the challenge for walk-ons and scholarship athletes even harder. “You got to have your heart into it and be prepared for what comes,” Larson said.

The people Larson looks up to are her strength and conditioning coach Dallas Kendrick, coach Sommerfeld and her mom, who knows what is best for her and pushes her towards her goals. Larson also looks up to Ray Lewis because of his passion for the game and the way he plays the game, along with his never-quit attitude.

Larson’s goals for the future are to place in the top 10 or 12 at a meet and stay healthy, along with creating positive feelings towards teammates. Another goal she has is to “be as mentally strong as I am physically strong.”

Larson has yet to set any records at SDSU, “but she has more heart then almost any other athlete I have ever worked with,” Sommerfeld said. “Ashley listens to everything that is said to her regarding her technique and training, and she truly tries to process all of the information. Some athletes go to practice and that is the only time they think about their sport. Ashley is a true student of the sport and works very hard to improve in and out of practice, and this is what makes lifelong champions.”

Larson would like to be a strength and conditioning coach at the college level after she graduates.

#1.882979:3082035837.jpg:throwing shot.jpg:Ashley Larson demonstrates a thrower pose.:Courtesy Photo