LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) -- Ashton May ran with speed and passion. Those traits propelled her to school records, team captaincy and ten All-American honors at UW-La Crosse.
Women's head track coach Pat Healy said, "I think Ashton was kind of the epitome of division three track to tell you the truth."
"She had this quiet confidence about her," said Eagles senior Tia Anderson.
It carried May through her 2010 graduation into a teaching job in Holmen, and back to UWL Track where she became an assistant coach.
"She was just getting everything started," said Katie Wagner, another assistant coach. "Her first job, and she was so excited to keep on coaching with us."
Healy added, "She was one of the best young coaches that I had, and she had a really bright future as far as teaching and coaching."
Then, on a fateful Saturday night last September, May's run ended.
"Everything kind of just stops," said Wagner.
Anderson said, "I felt like the ground had fallen from underneath you."
May's car crashed into an oncoming truck near Adams, Minnesota. Airlifted to a hospital in Rochester, she died later that night. Ashton May was just 25 years old.
"We actually had a candlelight vigil down here on the track out by the long jump pit," Healy recalled.
Wagner said, "It just seemed right to be with the team."
"The team was what got everybody through it," said Anderson. "We were always together. All Sunday we were together. You just couldn't be apart from each other because it was just a really tough time."
...A tough time that strengthened the Eagles. Only five months later, May's friends and teammates ran with her spirit all the way to their first WIAC indoor title since may led them to the top step herself in 2010.
UWL junior Kayla Ashland said, "[Her memory is] a huge motivating factor, I think. We won conference. We hadn't in a few years, and I think we dedicate that to her."
"You're definitely just going to run for her. You're doing everything for her," Anderson said.
Wagner added, "The season is definitely dedicated to her."
"We've been fortunate to have a pretty good season so far," said Healy.
Her memory will continue to carry the team this weekend, as they host the first Ashton May Invitational.
"We want to celebrate everything that she did," said Anderson.
Healy said, "Her parents are going to be here and some of her other relatives."
"They're as much as our family as the rest of the team," said Wagner. "We definitely think about her every day."
It's a fitting tribute to the run cut tragically short, and the memory that races forward.
Here's what you need to know if you want to attend the Ashton May Invitational this weekend. It begins Friday with a men's decathlon and women's heptathlon at 3:00 p.m. Seven women's and six men's teams then continue the meet on Saturday afternoon at 12:50, starting with a dedication ceremony for Ashton prior to track and field events. Admission is $6.00 for adults and $4.00 for children and seniors.
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