Kittatinny Regional High School stand-out senior Ashley Espinosa was recently acknowledged as one of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NJSIAA) honorees for the National Girls and Women in Sports Day.
Every winter, the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport honors an outstanding female athlete from each New Jersey high school in a statewide awards ceremony. College women athletes are also honored.
Espinosa was nominated for this honor by Todd Van Orden, Kittatinny’s athletic director and himself a Kittatinny graduate.
“Two hundred and fifty four female high school athletes from around the state were acknowledged for this award by the NJSIAA,” he said. “Ashley was honored largely in part for her academics and success in three sports — cross country, swimming and track and field. She is a tremendous student-athlete and has had a great career at Kittatinny Regional High School.”
The award had been in existence for 32 years, and the NJSIAA has been involved for the past 30.
Earning this honor was no easy task. Espinosa has had to balance a heavy academic load and a demanding, three seasons of athletics.
“It’s definitely been a challenge balancing my commitment to sports and my rigorous course load, but it has really taught me time management and responsibility,” she said. “It required me to determine my own personal balance, and I tried my best to plan ahead and never procrastinate.”
This has meant late nights during her sports seasons to study and get homework done.
“I pushed myself and never thought of quitting,” Espinosa said. “I’ve always pushed through whatever challenges I faced, and I think my self-discipline is really going to help me succeed in college.”
She’s still deciding where she’ll attend college, but her major is set.
“I plan to pursue mechanical and aerospace engineering,” she said. “Wherever I go, I would like to continue participating in my sports.”
A hard worker
Espinosa’s coaches say her work ethic, determination and leadership are paramount.
“Ashley is an extremely hard worker both in the classroom and on the track,” said her track coach, Melissa Fischer. “She continues to impress with her hard work and resilience to handling any setback. Ashley is a gifted student who also works hard. It is the perfect combination for success.”
George Soutter is Espinosa’s swim coach and has had her in his visual arts class.
I’ve been lucky enough to have Ashley as both a student in class, and as an athlete on our swim team,” he said. “She’s exhibited many of the same qualities in both; hard-working, committed to be the very she can be, and humble enough to seek out critique so she can learn and excel. She is relatively new to swimming, but due to these qualities she’s grown tremendously as a swimmer, and contributes to our team’s success.”
Soutter applauded Espinosa’s amiable personality that has endeared her to her teammates and coaches.
“I think when you combine that with her work ethic, self-determination, and openness to learn you become a great example for younger athletes to emulate,” he said. “Ashley has achieved that. In her short time with us she has proven herself a team leader. The younger swimmers on our girls’ team are very lucky to have someone like Ashley to look up to.”
Her cross country coach, Guy Gordon, concurs regarding Espinosa’s work ethic.
“Her commitment to her running to prepare for this past fall’s season, despite the pandemic, was truly something to behold,” he said. “She is extremely disciplined with her sports and her academics and well deserving of this honor.”
The Covid-19 pandemic greatly affected celebrations this year, but the importance of the honor Espinosa received is in no way diminished. This year’s celebration was in the form of a You Tube presentation due to the pandemic. It can be viewed at: bit.ly/36Zja2t.
“This award really means a lot to me,” Espinosa said. “Because it recognizes all my accomplishments and success as a female scholar athlete.”
“It’s definitely been a challenge balancing my commitment to sports and my rigorous course load, but it has really taught me time management and responsibility. It required me to determine my own personal balance, and I tried my best to plan ahead and never procrastinate.” Ashley Espinosa