By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

ELKHART – Moving to the next level in athletics, from high school to college, is a big deal. When the college that comes a courtin’ is the United States Military Academy (West Point), it’s huge.

Such is the case for Elkhart’s Ashley Buck as she will soon trade in the Lady Elks’ red, white and blue for the black and gold of the Black Knights women’s track and field program.

In a ceremonelkhart-lady-elk-tracky held at the Elkhart High School Library on Monday, Nov. 7, Buck signed her National Letter of Intent to take her talents to the banks of the Hudson River in New York.

Once she had signed with the prestigious school, Buck discussed how she became interested in attending the USMA. “They sent me a letter almost a full year ago and it was my first track letter, ever! I was excited! I didn’t even look at the name. I just filled out the questionnaire and sent it back. I didn’t think anything else about it because I didn’t think I would be going to college in New York. I just thought it would be a learning experience about how to get recruited and a full year later, here I am,” she said.

“Whenever I first realized this was a military academy, I said I’m not going. No way. I’m not leaving my family and I’m not going into the military. Basically, anything that was thrown my way, the answer was no,” she explained.

Asked what made her change her mind, Buck said, “I started getting recruited by several other colleges and Coach (Jonathan) Hill, that’s the guy who recruited me, would call me every day. He was stubborn, he was persistent and he wasn’t going to let me go to a different college without a fight. I started considering it because I could see that he was the kind of coach I needed to get me to be a better jumper and a better athlete.”

The Elkhart senior was also asked if she realized the opportunity she had by attending the USMA. “I don’t think it’s hit me, yet. It’s unbelievable, but I don’t know that I will realize it until I’m there. They are setting me up for everything in my life.”

ashley-buck-familyOn the recruitment process, Buck said, “They flew me up there for an official visit and from what I was able to see, they have a lot of heart in their program. That is big for me because I go to a little school, but our track team is filled with a lot of heart. I know you get to state based on your talent but another key aspect is your heart. How bad do you want it? I don’t think we could have qualified for state the last two years without having a lot of heart.”

“When I went up there and met the track team,” she continued, “I could just feel that they all loved it. There was no one there who didn’t want to be there. It was filled with a lot of heart and dedication. I got to meet with the team captain and I got to meet with the girls who ran track and the triple jumpers. I loved it! I knew that was where I wanted to be.”

Buck said she received a congressional appointment from Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R- TX) and had just received confirmation “…a few days ago. Everything is basically done except getting a few little things filled out.”

Also at the signing was her mom, Rita Shaver. “She got something in the mail and she was so excited! She filled it out and then we broke it to her it was the military. We really didn’t give it much thought until Coach Hill started calling. She is a triple jumper and he is the triple jump coach. He really believes in her and invited us to come see the campus. We went ahead and made the trip and it was great. I feel like she will be safe and I think they will get the best out of her. I think they will push her,” she said.

With a catch in her voice, Shaver added, “It’s sort of bittersweet for me. I’m very excited for her but like I told a friend, I don’t want her to look back on life one day and say I didn’t go to West Point because my momma cried. I will support in whatever she does.”elkhart-coaches-and-supe

Her dad, Bradley Buck, said he was more excited than surprised when his daughter started talking about West Point “… because of all the education and it’s such a great accomplishment. It will follow her for a lifetime.”

“Now, I was surprised she was interested in going to West Point,” he said. “She had told me she wanted to be a dentist and was going to go to a Baptist college and when she said she was thinking about this, I told her I’m not going to tell you what to do, but this would be the best thing to do.”

The proud dad said his friends, co-workers and boss were also excited when he told them the news. “Let’s put it this way, I’m getting paid to be here today by my boss, John Maingot. He told me even if had to drive all of her stuff up to New York, he would pay for my fuel,”

“This is a great opportunity,” Buck said. “I would tell other kids don’t let great things pass you by for something small. Look at the big picture.”

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.