By Rob Kiser
Piqua High School graduate Ashley Ho already has a resume that most can only dream of.
Ho was a standout volleyball player at Piqua, was involved in many community service projects, was a class Salutatorian last week and is a finalist for the U.S. Army/Pro Football Hall of Fame scholarship to be awarded in August.
On Saturday, Ho has a chance to add one more accomplishment to her resume — state track and field placer.
When the Division I girls high jump gets underway at noon, she will be the first Piqua girl to compete at the state meet since Kylie Hayes competed in the 400 in 2005 — and it has been much longer than that since the Lady Indians have had a state placer.
It — being at the state track and field meet — is something Ho could have never imagined when she gave high jumping a try in seventh grade.
“I was just doing it because they said it would be a good way to stay in shape in volleyball,” Ho said. “I was just jumping 4-6 or something like that back then. My dad (Daniel Ho) enjoyed me competing in track.”
Ho, whose focus in those years was on volleyball, didn’t come out for track again until her sophomore year.
“I didn’t go out for track as a freshman because I thought they would make me run,” Ho said with a laugh.
And Piqua girls coach Courtney Downs had an answer for her.
“We would have made her run,” Downs said with a laugh. “We tried to make her run as a sophomore and she was injured — so we haven’t tried to make her run since.”
Even as a sophomore, Ho flew under the radar in the high jump pit.
“I mean this as nicely as possible,” Downs said. “But, to say we saw this (qualifying for state as a senior). No, not at all. Ashley scored in almost every meet. Then at district, she jumped a PR and won district and we were like, ‘Where did that come from?’. And she continued to improve as a junior.”
Ho admits that district meet and clearing 5-0 was a turning point in her philosophy of the event.
“After I won district, I started thinking maybe I can do something with this,” she said.
Despite being slowed by shin splints, she had another strong showing as a junior.
This year, Ho has taken it to another level.
She has been almost unbeatable, broke the school record with a jump of 5-5 and 1-4 at the Miami County Invitational and finished third at the regional last week, clearing 5-5.
“You look at this season, Ashley (Ho) has only lost twice,” Downs said. “She lost at Wayne and the regional meet. She won every other meet.”
Ho admits she doesn’t know what to expect Saturday, having never been in Jesse Owens Stadium.
And that handling that atmosphere will be a key. She is tied for the fifth best qualifying height of 5-5 with four jumpers clearing 5-6 at regional.
A year ago, 5-7 won state. Three jumpers cleared 5-7 and four more cleared 5-6.
“The thing about state is you don’t need to PR to get on the podium,” Downs said. “If Ashley (Ho) can make 5-5, she will podium for sure.”
And they are going to try to prepare her for what Saturday will bring.
“We are going to take her over there Thursday because she has never been there,” Downs said. “The track is open for two hours. We are going to let her do a little running and get a little practice in. Then we are going to relax her s much as we can for two days and get ready for Saturday.”
Downs has high hopes for this weekend.
“She did 5-7 at practice last week,” she said. “I am really hoping she will get that at state.”
And she knows how much Ho benefits the Piqua program just by being at state.
“Definitely,” Downs said. “She is a great example for the younger kids. But really, our whole program is on the rise. Our distance runners in junior high are really coming on. The sprinters and hurdlers had a great year this year in junior high. We feel really good about where we are.”
As for Ho, she is taking things in stride.
“It is (great to be ending her career at the state meet),” she said. “I have been through graduation. This is like the final thing I do at Piqua. I was close (to getting 5-6 at regional. I am hoping to get it, but if I don’t, that is OK.”
She already has resume that most can only dream of.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.