SALINAS — Gonzales High School alumna Ashley Ochoa completed her first season as a track and field athlete for Hartnell College with a sixth-place finish at the California Community College Athletic Association’s State Championship on the Mount San Antonio College track.
Ochoa, 19, qualified for the state finals in the steeplechase after placing first at the Northern California Championships on May 20 at Chabot College, winning in a time of 12:10.90.
“I had many goals for this season, small ones and big ones, such as breaking personal records and qualifying for state,” Ochoa said. “I was focusing specifically on the 1500 and the steeplechase. For the 1500, my goal was to break my PR (personal record) from high school and PR every opportunity I got, which I did, leaving me with this season’s PR to 5:05. For the steeplechase after hitting State A qualifying, my goal was to be Coast Conference champion and NorCal champion. All the speed workouts, long runs and hurdle drills were difficult, but I’m glad I was able to get out of my comfort zone and improve.”
At the state meet steeplechase finals, Ochoa ran a season-best time of 12:05.65, scoring three points to help the Lady Panthers finish in 10th place in the team standings. Mount San Antonio won the women’s title.
Panthers Head Coach Chris Zepeda praised Ochoa for her improvement and hard work in the steeplechase.
“With Ashley I wanted to find an event that she could achieve the state championship standard,” Zepeda said. “Her high school 3200 best was a predictor of the potential, but I needed her to embrace the event as well. Since hurdling was a new skill, we started with very low hurdles and established what it should feel like to run over them. I explained she would feel like a deer through the forest. She made time to practice hurdles twice a week and it definitely became one of her strengths in the event. The water jump can be intimidating for first-timers, but she was aggressive and it accelerated the learning process. She was doing the water jump as well as anyone in the state.”
Ochoa attributes her success on the track and as a standout cross country runner to the opportunity to train with great athletes on the Hartnell team.
“Having the opportunity to practice with my teammates has made an impact on my performance as a runner, being surrounded with athletes that love running and take their training seriously has really pushed me to train even harder,” Ochoa said. “Having women that are faster than me also makes me want to add more miles to my week to have the ability to get closer to PRs. I’m grateful to run with my teammates.”
Ochoa was a busy student-athlete at Hartnell as she competed this season in the 400 hurdles, 1500, 3000, 5K and the 4 x 400 relay. Those events helped her to become strong in the steeplechase and could lead to continued success after Hartnell.
“Ashley has shown the ability to be highly coachable,” Zepeda said. “I think this stems from playing sports year round, wanting to learn each sport the best she can, and the amazing coaches who make her learning challenging, yet fun. Having a complete running resume along with her amazing GPA to date will make it easy to move her on after Hartnell with a scholarship.”