Release: September 15, 2010
Contact: David O'Brian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
cross country runner Ashley Horton, who is coming back from two
injury-plagued years, has maintained her focus as a runner in
Staying on top of athletics
and academics are challenges for every student-athlete at Binghamton.
For those who are successful, the key is preparation and anticipation.
Knowing what to expect is a critical component.
When injuries strike, however, an athlete has to adjust in ways
they were not previously prepared for. The discouragement of
not being able to compete and the challenges of rehabilitation
add an extra wrinkle to staying on top of class work.
Senior Ashley Horton of the cross country team is one
person who has been able to stay on top of things in both scenarios.
As a freshman, she was the top women's cross country runner.
She was injured for most of the next two years but has returned
to form heading into the 2010 season. Through it all, she managed
to succeed at a high level in the classroom.
Success as a Freshman
Horton was a standout at nearby Candor High School, from where
she graduated in 2007. As a senior, she was sixth in the Class
D State Meet and won a pair of regional track titles. Following
graduation, Horton stayed local and came to Binghamton University.
"I decided to come to Binghamton because it is an excellent
school academically," she said. "There is a great science
program and I knew that I wanted to go into a career in the health
care field. Coming to Binghamton allowed me to set myself up
for a career I wanted, but I was still able to leave my options
open. I also liked the idea of running for a Division I program
and being able to contribute to the team as a freshman."
Not only did Horton contribute to the Bearcats right away, she
was the team MVP. She was a team-best 16th at the America East
Cross Country Championship and was fifth overall at the season-ending
ECAC meet. To hear Horton describe it, however, her first season
of college cross country was not as easy as it looked.
"Honestly, I remember feeling lost in my races my freshman
year because I had always known my competition in high school,"
she said. "I was (therefore) less focused on racing other
people and more focused on racing myself and bettering my efforts
While Horton's mentality in races helped her as a freshman, the
same could be said about her attitude in training.
"Successful workouts became a constant for me," she
said. "College training is just more intense than high school.
I really enjoyed the different training and pushing myself through
the tougher workouts."
"Ashley joined our program when we really needed some better
leadership and competitive spirit," head coach Annette Acuff
said. "She has really helped facilitate our program in both
of those areas since her freshman year. She was fearless as a
freshman and led a lot by pure example."
In the classroom, Horton was able to be just as driven. She was
named to the America East Commissioner's Honor Roll her first
semester (for attaining at least a 3.5 GPA) and has remained
there ever since. In April 2009, she was inducted into the National
College Athlete Honors Society. Horton attributes her success
for a willingness to make the most of every part of her day.
"I really tried to focus on school work and my running performance
freshman year," she said. "Of course I wanted to meet
people and experience college, but being a student-athlete is
a unique experience in itself. I wanted to work hard, doing all
of the little tasks that make a person a successful student athlete.
Between communicating with professors, studying on the bus, and
reading in the ice-bath, I was able to make everything work."
One professor who got a first-hand look at Horton's drive was
Diego Trelles Paz. A visiting professor in the Romance Languages,
he was impressed with her drive to succeed.
"Ashley has been one of my top students," he said.
"She works hard, is intellegent and a wonderful person."
While Horton excelled in Diaz's classes, it was biology in which
she has found her passion for beyond college. She plans on going
to graduate school in occupational therapy. Science majors are
known for their heavy workload but Horton has managed to rise
to the challenge.
"As a biology major, there are a lot of lectures, discussions
and labs to schedule in, but all of these components are helpful
to understanding the information," she said. "The most
important part is keeping up with the work and really biology
is like any other major, there are just fewer essays and more
The challenges Horton faced in the classroom remained constant
the next three years. The same could not be said, however, with
her athletic endeavors. She struggled through an injury-plagued
sophomore season and missed all of last year. Horton struggled
emotionally but did not let her academic performance falter.
"At times, it was difficult to stay positive, but giving
up was not an option," she said. "Just because running
was not going well did not mean that I would stop working hard
in the classroom. I maintained focus with my school work even
though it felt like there was a piece missing from my normal
One person Horton credits with helping her through the tough
times was Acuff. The 11th-year head coach had an impact on her
right away and that continued during the time she was unable
"Coach Acuff has really helped me develop as a runner since
I have been at Binghamton," she said. "Even when I
was injured or redshirting a season, she gave me attention and
helped me through those tough times as well."
During the 2010 track season, Horton started to regain her form.
She just missed placing in the 3,000 at the America East Indoor
meet and was seventh in the steeplechase in the conference outdoor
championships. It was her best track finish since an identical
performance at the 2008 America East Outdoor Meet.
"Placing in the steeplechase last spring was a significant
step for me because it was encouraging to see all of the training
still paying off," she said. "I could feel myself getting
more and more fit as the seasons went on last year and after
having some solid performances in track, I really feel like I
am back where I want to be."
Poised to Come Back
Heading into her senior cross country season, Horton's place
on the team in terms of leadership is unquestioned. She a team
co-captain and has the respect of her entire team.
"Ashley not only uses her head but also her heart,"
senior co-captain Alicia Finger said. "Her contribution
to the team goes beyond scoring and being captain. She is virtuous
and a motivator. She is very good at making the right decisions
and sticking by them. One word to describe Ashley is dedication."
"Even though Ashley has had a frustrating couple of seasons
due to injury, she has always been dedicated to running,"
senior Kim Law said. "She has been a good example of how
to stay positive through rough times and I believe that all of
the girls on the team look up to her. I think this year the team
is going to benefit a lot from her hard work. She's an equally
dedicated student, helping raise our teams' collective GPA."
Like Horton, the women's cross country team is in position to
bounce back from some disappointing, injury-filled seasons. After
placing fourth (out of 10 teams) at the 2005 America East meet,
the Bearcats have not finished higher than sixth in the ensuing
four years. This year, Binghamton enters the year with everyone
Horton was the fourth runner on the team in the season-opening
dual meet against Siena on Sept. 13, but her finish is a testament
to the improved depth on the squad since her freshman season.
Sophomores Rachel Miura and Lindsay Raulli have been the top
two runners on the team thus far and senior Sarah Veith, who
like Horton has struggled with injuries, has been right behind
them. Although Horton was only fourth, her place on the team
can be attributed to the greater team depth than what existed
three years ago.
"The women on the team this year are determined to perform
well this season," Horton said. "As far as rankings
go, the last few years have been a little rough, but each year
that I've been here, I have seen great improvements in focus
and work ethic on the team and we definitely have a chance to
be a factor in the conference. The returners are all healthy
and strong and I am confident that with the freshmen, we've added
some talent and depth that will make for a successful year."
No matter where she is among the team's top finishers, however,
Horton will be one of the key runners on the squad, both on and
off the course.
"Ashley has become a great mentor both on and off the course
and is so well respected by her teammates," Acuff said.
"Her strengths have really impacted our program to what
I believe is at our highest level today."
Regardless of what happens this season, Horton believes she is
a better person in every way as a result of the adversity she
has had to overcome. She has stayed on top of everything no matter
what has come her way.
"Since coming to Binghamton I have learned that everything
you experience changes you in some way," she said. "
I have faced setbacks throughout my collegiate years that I was
not prepared for and they made running and school work more difficult,
but I tried to stay positive and in the end, I feel that I am
physically and mentally stronger. Everyone goes through rough
patches whether it's an injury or some other unfortunate occurrence;
eventually everything will turn around and sometimes you have
to get through a bad time to experience a better one."