Ashleigh Carr wasn’t a Bobcat a year ago.
Rather than practicing every morning at Walter Fieldhouse like she now does, Carr was running track and field in her native state of Nebraska at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. There, she was a heptathlete, a runner who competes in seven particular events: 100-meter hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin throw and 800 meter run.
But after competing as a Cornhusker for three seasons, she felt it was time for change. Her boyfriend, Brett Kitrell, is a center on Ohio’s football team and arrived here in the summer of 2017, when she was still enrolled at Nebraska. That, among other things pertaining to her future, influenced her to make a visit to Athens and meet coach Clay Calkins.
After that, she never looked back.
“When I came here [for the first time], I thought the campus was really cool,” Carr said. “I kept telling myself ‘This is the place. This is the place.’”
Carr transferred to Ohio prior to the beginning of Fall Semester of 2018. Her first three months in Athens consisted mostly of practicing and conditioning for the indoor season. She had her first taste of Bobcat track and field on Dec. 7, when Ohio traveled to Huntington, West Virginia, for the Marshall Opener.
Despite competing in heptathlons during her time at Nebraska, Carr transitioned to a primary 400-meter dash runner in the offseason, but would find initial success in a different event at Marshall.
Carr made quite the first impression on both her teammates and coaches in her Ohio debut as she placed first in the 600-meter run. Her and teammate Gaza Odunaiya were the lone Bobcats to claim victory at the Marshall Opener, helping Ohio place second.
The season only seemed to get better for Carr. A month later, she once again placed first at the Marshall Women’s Classic, earning an individual victory for the second consecutive meet along with Odunaiya. She continued to place around the top of each event she competed in, finishing third and fourth at various Ohio meets throughout the month of January.
Carr’s most impressive feat so far, perhaps, is what she accomplished at the Thundering Herd Open at Marshall on Jan. 26. Just her fourth race in a Bobcat uniform, Carr set a new Ohio indoor 400-meter dash record with a time of 56.48 seconds, breaking the 56.70 time set by Kathy Williams in 1981. Her and Odunaiya are the only Bobcats to break a school record this indoor season.
In addition to her individual success, Carr has improved Ohio’s 4x400 meter relay team. This season, she joined teammates Erin Stewart, Thelma Agyekum, Emily Deering and Stephanie Pierce to place second in the relay at both the Youngstown State University Invitational and Thundering Herd Open. Both meets had over fifteen teams competing.
Her previous track and field experience, especially at Nebraska, was pivotal to Carr’s mission this winter.
“Running in the Big Ten Conference was incredible,” Carr said. “It was the level I never expected to get to. But because I did, I was able to see just what I was capable of and began to set realistic goals that I truly believed I could achieve.”
Although she may not have envisioned it, Carr achieved a major goal by breaking a record that remained untouched for nearly 40 years. What’s more impressive is that it only took her four meets to break a mark so substantial.
Calkins praised his junior for being constantly driven and motivated, something he believes not all collegiate runners have nowadays.
“Something that [collegiate] runners lack is the ability to push yourself,” Calkins said. “Once runners figure out that you have to push yourself at practice and at meets, everything becomes easier for them. But she motivates herself on a daily basis, which allows her to create her own success.”
Her ability to remain motivated throughout the season is definitely a benefit to Carr and her individual performance. But her will to win is what sets her aside.
“In track and field, the goal is to win,” Carr said. “So that’s what I try to do, win individually or place high to get the team closer to winning.”
Moving to a different state, enrolling at a different university and meeting new teammates and coaches wasn’t easy for Carr to do, but it’s certainly worked in her favor so far.