Three-sport star relishes final track season with coach, mom
There probably isn’t a more adroit athlete in the Greater Spokane League than Ashlee Pedersen.
If there were a Triple Crown award, the Mt. Spokane senior would be the runaway winner. She was named the league’s most valuable defender in soccer. She was honorable mention in basketball. A three-event state qualifier a year ago in track, she’ll be an all-league selection again this spring.
To make the package complete, Pedersen is an MVP in the classroom. She carries a 4.0 grade-point average and is one of 26 valedictorians at her school.
All she lacks is a date to the prom in May.
In this age of specialization, Pedersen goes against the grain.
She signed to play soccer at the University of Montana but she also plans to do track.
Pedersen competes in club soccer in the spring, but she’s found a way to balance her participation in track and club soccer. She missed Mt. Spokane’s opening meet last weekend because she spent five days at a club tournament in Las Vegas.
She could have gone the way of a lot of friends and trimmed back her athletic ventures.
“I think the reason I’ve done all the sports is I couldn’t decide which sport I’d specialize in because I enjoyed them all,” Pedersen said.
Even if Pedersen had decided to specialize, the one sport she couldn’t have eliminated is track. It’s the sport her mom and her track coach, Annette Helling Pedersen, left her mark in years ago as a standout hurdler at Central Valley.
Helling’s times in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, set in 1981 when she was a junior, stand among the best all-time in the state. Central Valley coach Geoff Arte believes they probably will stand another 30-plus years.
Daughter has been setting records, too. Last year, she clocked 56.80 seconds in the 400, taking over the top spot at Mt. Spokane, and she anchored the 400 and 1,600 relays, both of which broke 11-year old records.
Pedersen has improved about a second a year since her freshman season. She’d like to get into the 55s in the 400 and help her relay teams lower their record times.
Coach/mom isn’t putting any expectations on her daughter, though.
“I really just want her to have fun. This is her last season,” Helling said. “She has enough pressure with everything coming to an end.”
Pedersen’s nemesis has been Kamiakin senior Ellie Heiden, the fastest sprinter in the state in all classifications. Heiden is headed to Brigham Young.
Heiden and Pedersen have gone head to head for four years and the two have struck up a friendship.
Pedersen remembers last year at regionals when Heiden told her before the 400 that she wanted to run in the 55s – a range Pedersen wasn’t quite capable of reaching. So Pedersen offered to go out hard – not so much serving as a rabbit but allowing Heiden somebody she could chase since she’s always the one being chased.
“I don’t go into a race against her feeling like I can’t win but I know she’s probably going to win,” Pedersen said. “The one thing I’m going to do is make her work for it. It brings out the best in me.”
Pedersen isn’t sure what four events she’ll do this season. It will likely include the 400 and the two relays. But she’s also toying with trying the 800, which would alter her lineup. She could also add another relay.
“Her competitiveness combined with her skill set makes her a pretty rare talent in track and field,” Arte said.
There aren’t many events Pedersen couldn’t do. A week after state last year, she participated in the state heptathlon competition, taking fifth. The heptathlon includes the 100 hurdles, 200, 800, long jump, high jump, shot put and javelin.
She couldn’t practice most of the events until after her high school season concluded. She discovered quickly that she wasn’t born to do the hurdles like her mom.
“I spent about a day practicing each event,” Pedersen said. “I thought I had a three-step approach down on the hurdles. Then I get over there and I seven-stepped them. I chickened out. I was stuttering getting over them.”
Still, there are at least eight events she’d do if state rules allowed. And there are two other sports she did in middle school – volleyball and cross country – she would have attempted had they not conflicted with soccer.
“I just found them so much fun,” she said. “I have a lot of friends in those sports.”
Pedersen, who has earned varsity letters in 11 of 12 sports, has collected seven state medals in track.
More than anything, she’ll savor this final season running for her mom.
“She knows me really well and she knows when to push and when not to push,” Pedersen said.
And Mom doesn’t want to think about not coaching a daughter. Her oldest daughter, Sammie, also did track and three sports.
“Ashlee is a competitor,” Helling said. “I love her attitude. I’ll tell the girls what we’re going to do at practice and you never see a frown on her face and she never asks why we’re doing whatever. I’ve loved coaching my kids. I’m going to miss it so much.”
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