Pisgah record-holding sprinter signs with Western Carolina

May 29—One Pisgah senior track star will be staying close to home after signing with Western Carolina on Thursday.

Avery Ponder has had a sucessful career with the Bears — currently holding the school's record in the 200-meter dash.

"She's meant a lot," Pisgah coach Danny Williamson said. "She's the one kid that runs anything from the short sprints up to the long sprints. We've used her in all areas of the relays and the sprint events. She's made us better."

For Ponder, Western was a natural fit.

"I wanted to run track and I felt like the best environment for me would be at Western. I've heard so many great things about it," Ponder said. "Some of my friends go there and have told me how great the campus is."

It's also close to home, an added plus for both Ponder and her mother, Tricia English.

"It's important for me," English said. "I think it's important for her. She and I are really close. She's the baby of the family. Of course, the boyfriend is still going to Pisgah, so she'll be here to be able to watch him play football."

Ponder will be the final kid to leave the nest for English.

"She's the last baby in the household. It's going to be a big transition. She's got the whole world ahead of her. I hope her track career really kicks off. She's a great sprinter," English said. "She's a great kid. I can't wait to see what her future holds. I'm excited for her."

Over the last four years, Ponder has developed into a force for the Bears in sprint events, but the program has meant so much more for the senior.

"It's meant a lot. It's definitely shaped me as an athlete and as a student," Ponder said. "It's given me better self-discipline. It's given me a lot of my closest friends that I have."

The recruiting process was a little hectic for Ponder, but things settled out. English said her daughter's "heart really lied in going to Western."

"It was a little crazy, but for the most part it was pretty simple," Ponder said. "I told Williamson I was interested in doing track and he helped me reach out to other coaches. When I was able to get in contact with the Western coach, he came to a few of the meets, watched me and I was able to talk to him about it."

Williamson is a former coach at Western Carolina, giving the Pisgah coach a pipeline to local universities.

"I think a lot of times you'll have someone call and say 'Hey I've got an athlete for you' and it could be someone you don't have a relationship with," Williamson said. "Because I have the relationship, I'm not going to send them a dud because I understand what it takes to compete at that level and I have an idea if a kid can do it."

Ponder said she plans to major in forensic science.

"It's always interested me," Ponder said. "That kind of stuff just appeals to me."