By Blake Dickinson, Contributor
Excelling in athletics has just been a way of life for the Kildow family ever since Ashley Kildow and her brothers were little. As a senior on both the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s track and cross country teams, Kildow has built up an impressive résumé on her own, but she still credits her family with having the biggest influence on her.
Kildow’s older brother Ty just finished his baseball career at Nebraska and her eldest brother Beau played football at Morningside College. Even though the siblings haven’t always been in the city, Kildow says that, “They still come to my meets when they can and they text me to congratulate me after every race.”
Kildow’s parents have also been a tremendous support, having been to almost every meet of her college career. This kind of support has encouraged Kildow to have the same kind of influence on her team. She tries her best to keep the mood light and remind her teammates that “if you’re not having fun, then what are you doing?”
This mentality has been contagious.
“Runners in general are just goofy,” Kildow said. “But our team is still different than most that we run against.”
She says a lot of this comes from the kinds of girls that are recruited, the positive atmosphere in practice and the race day routine.
“A lot of girls are really intense, listening to music and visualizing the route,” Kildow said. “Most of us think that being too serious can lead to being too nervous.”
Before every race, the Mavericks have a few rituals that they use to get everyone focused and on the same page.
“Kristen Rogers always leads us in prayer and tells us how the race is going to go, then Avery Schmidt leads a cheer to get everyone pumped,” Kildow said.
The unity on the team is part of what makes cross country such a rewarding experience for Kildow. It also helps that she has found her way to the podium on several occasions.
This year, she managed to finish in the top 20 in every race and clocked a personal record for the Lincoln, Nebraska 6K last week at 23:11. One of the most impressive aspect of Kildow’s running is that, because of an academic scholarship, she is done all this as a walk-on.
These accomplishments haven’t come without a great deal of hard work from Kildow, both on the track and in the weight room. Kildow says that the training staff has helped her to gain the strength that she lacked coming out of high school.
“I was just weak,” Kildow said. “It’s helped me have more power during my race.”
This power comes in handy during longer races, but is especially necessary for the shorter distances Kildow runs during the indoor and outdoor track seasons.
“It helps to build speed with every step, especially during my kick at the end of races,” Kildow said.
As far as finding the right kind of support to help her achieve her goals, Kildow says she hasn’t had to go far.
“UNO has a bunch of resources if you need help with anything,” Kildow said.
She also said being pushed by her coaches every day at practice has given her motivation.
“Ever since recruiting me, Coach Marc Bierbaum has made me feel like I’m a valuable member of the team,” Kildow said. “I may not always understand the coaches’ philosophies, but it’s working.”
It isn’t surprising that graduation will not mark an end to Kildow’s athletic career.
“I want to continue training and staying fit,” Kildow said. “I’m hoping to run a marathon someday. Maybe I’ll pick up rock climbing.”
In the meantime, there is still work to be done.
“I don’t worry very much about my times, but I’ve always wanted to run a sub-five minute mile in track,” Kildow said.
If Kildow continues to improve as she has over the last few years, this should be an attainable goal.
The Mavericks will resume action at the South Dakota State Invite next Saturday, Oct. 4th in Brookings, SD.