For two years, Lemoore’s Ashley Williamson waited to get back on the track.
While participating in the school’s band, the she amassed band fees that prevented her from participating in athletics until they were paid.
And after two years of doing chores, babysitting for neighbors, she finally paid off the fees to get back where she wanted to be.
And once there, Williamson went on to win a West Yosemite League title and set a school record after the two-year hiatus.
Williamson is the Sentinel’s 2016 girls track and field Athlete of the Year.
That break from pole vaulting made Williamson want to return even more. After watching a pole vaulter in middle school she was hooked on the event where athletes fly through the air over a bar and fall into a padded pit.
“The way he moved through the air,” Williamson said. “I thought it was super cool.”
So Williamson took on the sport, competing as a freshman before those band bills mounted.
In the time away, Williamson still watched other vaulters, trying to take in as much as she could.
“I realized how much I wanted to do it,” she said. “I did a lot of work and I was proud to pay off all those fees.”
While Williamson missed the first week of the season, she was quick to get back to where she was her sophomore year.
In her first meet back, Williamson matched her personal record of 8-feet, 0 inches.
As the year went on, she would slowly clear better heights but struggled with relearning simple techniques.
“I was frustrated at first because I wasn’t improving,” she said. “I had to relearn (how to do it).”
Williamson learned to go higher than any girls’ pole vaulter in Lemoore High history.
With the school record sitting at 8-6, Williamson joked early on that she would break it by the end of year.
Not only would she break it, she’d pass it by a full foot before she won individual titles at the West Yosemite League championships and the Central Area meet. That qualified her for the Central Section Masters.
“I surprised myself,” she said. “I didn’t expect that going into the year but it was exciting.”
In the summer, Williamson also got to vault at the North American Pole Vault Championships in downtown Clovis. Next year, she’ll vault at College of the Sequoias.
Like this past year, she hopes to continue to raise the bar.
“I want to make it to the Olympics,” Williamson said. “Every goal I’ve set I’ve made. I know it’s really high, but I know nothing is impossible.”