In honor of National Student-Athlete Day on Friday,
UNCGSpartans.com will feature a student-athlete each day leading up
to this date, acknowledging their commitment to excellence on and
off the field of play.
National Student-Athlete Day recognizes the accomplishments of student-athletes nationwide who excel in the classroom, on the playing fields and in their communities. The day was created by the National Consortium for Academics and Sports and the Northeastern University Center for the Study of Sport in Society, with partnership from the NCAA and the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Thursday's feature is on UNCG women's cross country and track athlete Ashley Schnell, a redshirt senior from Lincoln, Neb.
Q: What made you decide to attend UNCG?
A: While I was at my previous university, I didn't feel like I was being challenged enough in my major (which is music performance on the violin). I think part of that feeling was because the program was very small and I wasn't motivated to work hard to reach the level I wanted to achieve. When I looked at UNCG, I saw that the music program here was really good, and after doing an audition and talking with my future violin teacher, Fabian Lopez, I thought coming to UNCG would be the opportunity I was looking for. At the time, my older sister was working on her doctoral degree at North Carolina, so having a family member close was also nice – especially since a drive back home is around 22 hours for me.
Q: What has been your favorite moment as a student-athlete?
A: I have two favorite moments I would like to share. The first was winning the Southern Conference team title in cross country this past year. Winning an individual title is cool and all, but it is nothing compared to winning a team title. To be able to share the enthusiasm and hard work of achieving one common goal over an entire season with such a talented group of girls is truly amazing. My other favorite moment was making it to the NCAA Championships in cross-country. The atmosphere of the meet, being able to race with all of these incredible runners, and just watching the crowd of people (spectators and athletes) run across the course is something I won't forget. Also, seeing the proud look on both of my parents' faces after my race and being able to share such an amazing experience with them after so many years of their support since I started running at the age of 7 was a touching way to end my senior cross country season.
Q: Who has been the most influential person in your athletic career?
A: Before I came to UNCG, I was able to work with an assistant coach who has been one of the most influential people in my athletic career. One of the most important things he taught me was that I had to believe in myself and trust in the training that I was given because if I doubted any of it, then I wouldn't be able to accomplish my goals. He didn't only tell me to believe in myself, but he always made sure that he told me how much he believed in me and my abilities. When somebody continually tells you how awesome your race was or how you crushed a workout, it can only build your own confidence until you believe it. If I had a bad race or a difficult practice, he was always making something positive out of it and telling me to take that and look to the future and use that as motivation. And when I would have an outstanding race … let's just say I don't think I have ever seen anyone get as excited as he would.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After I graduate, I have a few options that I am contemplating. My first option is that I will go to graduate school and get my master's in violin performance at the University of Wyoming. My second option is joining a professional running group full time to train for the next Olympic year. My third option is trying to train on my own and build up mileage and strength while attending graduate school. Then after earning my master's degree, I would go on to train with a professional running group. I'm currently trying to decide between the three.
Q: What do you do to get ready for a meet?
A: The day of a meet I get up and go for a 10 minute shakeout run just to loosen up and stretch my legs out. An hour before my race, I start warming up by doing a 10-12 minute run and then stretch and do drills and strides. Then I'm ready to go after a short prayer!
Q: Do you think coming to UNCG and being a part of the women's cross country team has better equipped you for your future?
A: Being a part of the women's cross country team has definitely equipped me for my future. Being able to work well together with other people is important in any profession, but especially in music. We all have a variety of different majors and so have very different schedules but we have been able to come together as a group and persevere towards a common goal and work out bumps in the road as they come along, support each other and celebrate great achievements! Being a part of the team has also helped me partition my time better to try and balance all of the activities I am involved in, which will help me to do this when I go to graduate school or when I get a job.
Q: What are your hobbies outside of your sport?
A: My biggest hobby outside of running is definitely playing the violin – not just because it is my major but because I love it. I started playing the violin when I was 4 years old and have been involved in music ever since. I also love to go to parks, either to swing on a swing set or walk around a lake and look at all the beautiful flowers and trees. I enjoy listening to music (either classical, soundtracks or regular songs you hear on the radio), reading, writing songs or stories and going star-gazing.
Q: What is one thing you cannot live without?
A: One thing I cannot live without is God. I would never be where I am today without Him guiding me, especially in running. There have been many times in my running career where I could have quit or probably should have quit, but I didn't. Problems with exercise-induced asthma and allergies constantly kept me wondering if it was worth it to keep running. I was taking so many asthma medications and still couldn't control it at all – I would have asthma attacks at least four or five times each week and always when I would do a difficult workout. At one point in my career, I was actually afraid to run because I didn't know if I would be able to take in another breath. This broke down my confidence completely, but today my coach and teammates could probably tell you how unshakeable they believe my confidence is. I would never have been able to overcome these struggles and stick with it if I didn't have God with me every step of the way.
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