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Ashland - Local Town Pages

Sophomore Looking To Run Into Record Books

By Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Many athletes that play high school sports turn to track and field as a form of staying in shape for their number one sport. One such athlete, Ava Dittenhaffer, recently decide to give track a try in order to improve her soccer game and surprisingly she has had immediate success.
“I was looking to stay in shape for the soccer season and all my friends were running track, so I thought that I’d give it a try,” the sophomore said. “I only began taking part in track this past winter season.”
Going in Dittenhaffer was thinking distance running or sprinting and although she did compete in the 300 meters during the winter season, she also began running the 55-meter hurdles. While watching other athletes take part in the event, she thought that it looked like fun to jump over things and although she was quite nervous at first, she found that things went fine.
While having fun with the hurdles the sophomore found that she was much better at the 300 meters and was able to qualify for the State Tournament although she unfortunately couldn’t attend due to a pre-planned trip.
“I would have like to see what I could have accomplished. All season I was just trying to get my times down,” she said. “I was upset in some way as my season had gone really well, but at least I have another two years to get another chance.”
During the winter season Ashland sprinting, jumping and hurdling coach Ethan Doyan saw that Dittenhaffer had a lot of talent and the potential as a mid-distance sprinter. The former high school and college runner turned coach was ecstatic about what this young athlete could do during the spring season.
“I knew that after the indoor season she was poised to do great things in both the 400-meter and 400-meter hurdles due to her performances in the 300-meter and the well as being a proficient hurdler,” Doyan said.
While the Clocker coach was looking forward to what Dittenhaffer could do, the sophomore was not even sure that she was going to participate in spring track.
“I didn’t really plan on running track in the sprig due to my club soccer team, NEFC,” she said. “I was unsure if I could even balance soccer and track with my schoolwork.”
After some encouragement, she decided to give it a shot. It was hectic at first but once she learned to make the necessary adjustments, she found things to be ok.
“I would go to track practice right after school and then attend soccer later that night. If I had a meet, I’d have to leave immediately after my event and head to soccer practice,” Dittenhaffer said. “I was surprisingly lucky in terms of schoolwork where I usually didn’t have to come home and study for tests the next day. I did spend time in the car or on weekends trying to get ahead.”
After her coach and other runners convinced her to take part I the spring season Dittenhaffer found herself running the 400-meters as well as the hurdles; the last leg of the 4x400 and long jump (she wanted to try an event that didn’t have stress related to it).
According to Doyan, the sophomore hit her stride during the outdoor season, and she never lost a dual match in either the 400m or 400m hurdles. She would go onto become the Tri-Valley League Champion in the 400 meters as well as qualifying for both events in the Division 4 Championship where she finished fourth overall in the hurdles and 7th overall in the 400m.
With her fourth-place finish she qualified for the MIAA Meet of Champions in the 400m hurdles where the Ashland athlete place 12 in the state with a time of 1:06.54, her time broke the Ashland school record previously set by Samantha Otten in 2010. Otten went on to run Division 1 track at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Despite having success in the post-season with the hurdles, Dittenhaffer only took part in the event twice during the regular season, luckily one of those times was fast enough to qualify for the State Meet. 
Entering the State Meet the young runner found herself really stressed out, but once she ran her race, she felt good at what she had accomplished.
“I really wasn’t thinking about the different grades. I was intimidated by the better runners though,” she recalled. “Its aways good to know the people in your heat and what they can do – that way I can get motivated to try and stay with them knowing that if I do I’ll have a better time and it will help me to improve.”
Having only taken place in the event for the third time all year, Dittenhaffer not only found herself moving onto the All-States she was able to cut 3 seconds off her personal time. During the All-State Meet the Ashland hurdler was unable to improve upon her time but did gain valuable experience in the event on a prestigious stage.
Once school is out, Dittenhaffer doesn’t plan on any real track training, the only thing she plans on is taking part in playing soccer throughout the summer months. 
With two more years taking part in both winter and spring track she knows there is plenty of time to improve her craft in all of her events. And although she currently holds the hurdle record, she would like to add more records to her accomplishments at Ashland.
“I want to keep on improving my times until I eventually get the school record in the 400, which I am only 2 seconds away from,” Dittenhaffer said. “It would defiantly be cool to get it and nice to add another record to my resume.”
Clocker Head Coach Sharon Ames noted that although she doesn’t work closely with the young runner, she does know that she is a shy and modest individual who works very hard at improving.
“Ava is dedicated to soccer,” Ames said. “She is an all-around athlete and all of her personal times are on the Ashland top 10 list.”
While soccer is her favorite sport and something that she has been taking part in for quite some time, she has come to love track in the short time she has been involved with the sport.
“It’s something that I struggle with on a regular basis,” she said. “When I go to college, I believe that I could do either sport. The recruiting process for track is much easier than soccer, but I’ve got two years to worry about that, eventually it will be a wait and see thing.”
Doyan firmly believes that Dittenhaffer is as different breed when it comes to running.
“She has some intangibles that make a good runner great. She’s not afraid to get hurt and the last 100 meters tend to be the most powerful of her race,” he said. “She has a great stride, is mechanically sound and doesn’t use unneeded extra energy or movement which is crucial; in the longer sprints.”
With another two years and four seasons of track I front of her, who knows what this young runner can accomplish over that time. It is quite possible that she becomes extraordinarily successful on the track and decides to continue running in college, but as she noted it’ll be a wait and see type of situation. That situation could change her mind entirely about playing soccer and make the switch to track.