Carrying newfound confidence, Menno's Ashton Massey 'ready to attack the track'

Apr. 26—MENNO, S.D. — As one of the premier hurdlers in South Dakota high school track and field, Ashton Massey is no stranger to navigating obstacles in her path.

But for a time, one of Massey's largest hurdles was herself.

That all changed last May at the 2023 Class B track and field championships in Sioux Falls. An admittedly nervous, anxious Massey claimed a trio of individual titles, winning the girls 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles and triple jump.

Her performance that day at Howard Wood Field helped make way for a different version of Massey this season, as the senior now carries a certain joyous self-belief to pair with championship-level abilities.

"It made all the difference. Confidence-wise, I just feel better. I'm ready to attack the track, and I'm not as scared anymore. Mentally, it's been a huge flip," Massey said. "I'm not in my own head anymore. I'm confident in the work I put in, and I think it's going to come out on the track in some big ways."

In fact, though there's still a month before Massey aims to defend her state championships, the results have already been notable.

Massey said she's pleased with the way her senior season has started, particularly in the triple jump. In the first outdoor meet of the season, Massey recorded a personal record leap and broke 36 feet for the first time, which she regarded as "a mark I never thought I'd hit, ever." Now she's aiming for 37 feet.

On Thursday at the Erv Ptak Relays, a home meet for Menno, Massey notched another personal record at 36 feet, 4.5 inches, which ranks as the top distance in Class B and the fourth-best overall in South Dakota.

On the track, Massey feels she's already posting "end-of-season" times. In the 300-meter hurdles, Massey blazed to a time of 45.91 seconds on Tuesday at the Danielsen Relays in Salem, setting a new best mark in the state across all classes. For comparison, her title-winning time from last season was 47.19 seconds.

Massey stands atop Class B for the 100-meter hurdles, too, with a mark of 15.37 seconds, which is also one-hundredth faster than her title-winning time from last season. She ranks ninth overall in the all-class standings.

For good measure, she also has a top-five Class B time in the 800 meters (2:28.95), an event she's competed in once so far this outdoor season.

Massey is a four-sport varsity athlete who doesn't get to focus on track and field much in the months leading up to the season. During the fall, she balances volleyball and cross country, and in the winter she plays basketball. Even still, she believes elements of other sports have helped with her constant improvement in track and field.

"It's kind of hard (switching sports), but honestly, I really like it because it takes different mentalities for everything," Massey said. "I feel like (playing many different sports) has built me into a well-rounded athlete."

Following her final prep season, track and field will continue to be a focus for Massey, who is committed to compete collegiately at Augustana, where she plans to study exercise science.

With what Massey achieved last year, the new standards already set this spring and what awaits in her collegiate future, there comes a fair amount of expectation. But, in the short term, she's doing her best to stay focused on consistent improvements, adding inches to her jumps and shaving tenths from her times.

"It's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of pressure. It's really tested me mentally in ways that I never would've thought about," Massey said. "I've been leaning on people around me and leaning on my faith. It's been tough, but it's pressure that I feel like I'm handling with grace right now."