Friday Night Sports Hero: Ashley Hassett

HERSHEY, Neb. (KNOP) - Ashley Hassett plays volleyball and basketball for Hershey, and participates in both track and field events in the spring. On the track team, Hassett runs the 100 meter and 300 meter hurdles, throws discus, and participates in long jump. Throughout her career, she has also run on relay teams and thrown shot put.

"She just has natural athleticism and is pretty capable of performing in basketball, volleyball, I think she could be a track heptathlete, to be honest with you," Hershey girls track coach, Amy Beyer, said of Hassett.

"My sister was a thrower when she was in high school, my dad was a thrower, and my mom was a hurdler, and then I just got involved in long jump this year," Hassett said on how she got involved in her varying events.

Hassett becoming involved in long jump was not necessarily planned, but bad weather early in the season limited practice time, and led to Hassett competing in a new event.

"The only reason she entered into long jump this year was she wasn't ready for the 300 hurdles. It was just a matter of we didn't have enough practice time, and I'm like i don't think it's safe. So, I'm like, let's put you in the long jump, then she pops a 16.2 [foot] jump, and you look like an idiot as a coach if you don't keep her in there," Beyer said.

Last track season, Hassett tripped over a hurdle towards the end of a race, breaking her elbow. Then, in the second game of the basketball season, she fell and broke her other elbow. The second injury was particularly difficult for her.

"I felt like my whole world went down when I did it, because that was my senior year, favorite sport, what I'm going to college in. It was tough," Hassett said.

Hassett's injury left the basketball team without one of their best players, and top leaders.

"Her injury was kind of a back set for the team, she was our leader, she was always encouraging, and always willing to put in the work. When she got hurt, it kind of hurt the spirit. She was always peppy," said Channing Holm, a senior thrower, and also member of the basketball team, "Seeing her work through it, she stayed, she even learned to shoot left handed."

Hassett's teammates watched her work hard to come back from the injury. She was even able to return before the end of the basketball season.

"She really pushed herself to make a comeback, to better herself, and to push the team. To say 'I know I'm out, but I'm still here for you, on and off the court," Tyra Otzel, a senior sprinter, and guard on the basketball team, said of Hassett's recovery.

"I was actually there both times she got injured," said Bailie Vanarsdall, a senior distance runner, and one of Hassett's best friends, "Obviously being that dedicated of an athlete, it's going to hurt you, but she would bounce back, even the night of. She fought back like no other, and she was ready to compete the whole time, and she never gave up or had a doubt in her mind. She stayed confident through all of it, so I think that was one of the most important things."

Hassett and Vanarsdall have been close friends since about kindergarten, and are like sisters, according to Vanarsdall.

"My mother will always say she's like her second daughter. She's at my house all the time, I'm over at her house all the time. We spend all our time together," Vanarsdall said. "We help each other work through our ups and downs, and we hype each other up. If we're having rough spots, then we help each other get through it."

The day Hassett hurt her elbow the first time was also a rough day for Vanarsdall, but the two worked through it together.

"The time she hurt her elbow was at the Chase County meet, and I got a bloody nose during the two mile, so I was running with a bloody nose and she was handing me Kleenex's the whole time, and she caught me at the finish line and helped me clean all the blood off. The same day, she fell running the hurdles and I had to take her spot in the 4x400 relay later that day," Vanarsdall said.

After the meet, Vanarsdall went to visit Hassett in the hospital, and says she was ready to get back to competing.

"As soon as I got done running, I went and saw her at the hospital, and that was right after she woke up after getting her elbow re-set. She was walking, she was happier than ever, just 'alright, let's get back to the meet, I'm ready to finish,' because she qualified for finals in discus, and she was ready to go finish throwing." Vanarsdall said.

Competing in four events, three of which are so different, Hassett needs to work harder than most at practice.

"She'll stay here late at night and work hard for her hurdles. She'll push on those for 30 to 45 minutes, then she'll go to discus, throw discus with her coach for 30 to 45 minutes, and she'll stay and jump as long as she needs to and make sure her marks are right. It's awesome to see how hard she works in everything she does on the track team," Otzel said.

The hard work doesn't end at practice. At meets, Hassett doesn't get much time to rest, especially since the long jump and discus events typically run at the same time.

"She's always running back and forth, so she has to choose which one she wants to do first," Holm said.

Now, as a senior, Hassett hopes to be able to medal at state in all her events, and she thinks her best shot at doing so are long jump and 100 meter hurdles.

Hassett isn't the only one who thinks she can come home from Lincoln with multiple medals.

"She is in the hunt in all four events going into districts," Beyer said.

"First place, everything. Hurdles definitely, 300 and 100," Holm said when asked how she thinks Hassett will do at state.

As a senior, Hassett tries to impart her wisdom upon younger members of the team.

"At the end of practice, she's down there talking to and working with those young hurdlers, and, you know, she's been a God send that way," Beyer said.

"I want everyone to go 100 percent, we have those times where everybody's like, go 50 percent, go 75, don't actually go 100. 100 percent all the time, when we're supposed to, is the best way to do it, because you get in better shape, and then you're obviously going to do better at meets," Hassett said.

When asked about stories they thought exemplified the kind of person Hassett is, all her teammates had funny stories to tell.

"The other day, she was on a phone call with [North Platte Community College] so she could take some tests for college beforehand, and they asked her for her birth date, and she messed it up," Holm said, laughing.

"She's an awesome dancer. She dances all the time, she dances in the car. You'll put on any song, and there she goes. She's probably dancing 24/7," Otzel said.

"She loves butter," Vanarsdall said, laughing, "She's always said that since we were younger. She loves to put butter on everything, is what she said when we were younger."

Hassett was across the field from Vanarsdall, heard her, and yelled back, "When I eat bread, I need butter on it!"

Beyer gave praise to Hassett not only as an athlete, but also as a person.

"She's a fun kid to have around. She's competitive, she's athletic, but most importantly, I think she's willing to get along with everybody and work with the young kids," Beyer said.