Ashley Herendon. It is impossible to find the adjective that describes the athletic career of Ashley Herendon. Outstanding, exceptional, stellar, remarkable, notable, prominent, distinctive and other superlative descriptions come to mind but all seem inadequate. For lack of a stronger word, EXTRAORDINARY is probably best.
Ashley Herendon unquestionably won more awards, honors and titles than any athlete in the history of Fannin County. She will add one more award to her trophy case soon when she receives a plaque reading ‘Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame – Class of 2014’.
Ashley began competing in athletics when she was a youngster growing up in Morganton, Georgia. She received early encouragement from her father Tommy, who owns his own construction business, her mother Mary, a certified nursing assistant at Union County Nursing Home, and her older brother Jeremy, with whom she continues to shoot a few hoops any time the family gathers.
By the time she entered Fannin County High School in the fall of 1994, Ashley was a veteran competitor in basketball, softball and track and field at the junior level, including an impressive performance in the Junior Olympics when she was only a seventh grader. She had an immediate impact in high school in each of the three sports in which she competed.
In track and field, Ashley competed in several events but excelled at throwing the discus and shot put. She was good enough at both events to advance to the state class AA track and field meet as a freshman and was a familiar face at that event in each of her four high school seasons. She won the state title in the shot put 2 times, finished 3rd one time and 4th one time. Also at the state level, she won first place in the discus throw 2 times and captured 2nd place on two occasions. Her discus throw of 131 feet, 8 inches at the 1996-97 meet established a state record in that event. She was the Fannin County High girls track and field MVP all four of her high school years.
Ashley also started for the Fannin County softball team for 4 years. She was the MVP in that sport all four years leading her team to a 3rd place finish in the state tournament in her junior season of 1996-97. She became the first Fannin County High School player to be named to the All-State first team as a senior and was also selected to participate in the North – South all-star game as a 2nd baseman during her senior season.
She played basketball all four seasons at FCHS and became the school’s first all-state first-team selection in her junior season and was a repeat first team selection as a senior. She was the team’s leading scorer for three seasons and was selected as team MVP as a junior and senior. She was named as the North Georgia Tipoff Club player of the year, was selected to play in the North-South all-star game as a senior and was a member of the Georgia team in the prestigious Georgia vs Tennessee all-star basketball game. Ashley scored a total of 1,398 points in her Fannin County High School career, second highest in school history.
When asked about the highlights of her high school career, Ashley is quick to mention the accomplishments of the Fannin County girls basketball team of 1996-97, her junior year in high school. Playing the season with the memory of Sabrina Gibson, a teammate who had died in an automobile accident, the 1996-97 Fannin County girls advanced to the Class AA state championship game before losing to South Georgia powerhouse, Thomasville High School. During their amazing quest for the state title, the Fannin girls defeated some strong opponents including East Hall and Hancock Central, both in overtime, and Dade County High by one point.
In recognition of her basketball accomplishments, Ashley’s #14 has been retired by Fannin County High School, an honor that has been given to only five athletes in school history.
Ashley was offered track and field scholarships by a number of colleges and chose to continue her career in athletics and education at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Ashley was no less dominant at the college level than she had been in high school. She was named as the Southern Conference women’s track and field freshman of the year for her performances during the 1998-99 season.
As a freshman, Ashley Herendon won the discus and the javelin throw events, finished second in the shot put and a respectable 7th in the hammer throw at the Southern Conference outdoor meet. Since the javelin throw had not been a part of high school competition in Georgia, Ashley finally had a stage on which to display her skill in probably her best event. Also during her freshman year, she won first place in the shot put at the Southern Conference indooor meet. The javelin and discus throws are not included in the roster of events contested at indoor meets.
Ashley continued to compete at Western Carolina for two more seasons, winning two more Southern Conference javelin titles, titles in both the discus and shot put and a 4th place finish in the hammer throw in the 2001 meet. She also captured the shot put championships at the indoor championships in 2000 and 2001. She continues to hold the javelin throw all-time record at Western Carolina.
After graduating from Western Carolina, Ashley Herendon embarked upon her career goal of becoming a “physical educator and coach — to coach other young ladies in the same way that I had been coached” by her mentors including Andy Chapman, Johnny Farmer and Cindy Barnes. Ashley has coached basketball and track at Hiwassee Dam, Union County and Murphy high schools to date in her coaching career. She and her 7-year old son, Braiden, continue to make their home in Fannin County so a move back to a coaching position in her home county may not be out of the question in the future.
Ashley Herendon says that athletics “have shaped my whole life”. She subscribes to the mantra that the effort that you “put into athletics determines how successful you will be”. She strives to instill the same dedication and pride in accomplishment that she possesses into her students. But she continues to feel the competitive fire that she felt in her high school and college athletic days.
Since 2010, she has been involved in the fast growing sport of CrossFit. CrossFit has been described as the sport of fitness. It encompasses a wide range of physical disciplines that tax every aspect of an individual’s athletic prowess. The competitions are broad, general and inclusive and include everything from weightlifting, swimming and running to rope climbing, push ups and pull ups. Ashley’s team from Murphy finished 10th in a field of 30 teams of elite contestants at a major tournament in Landover, Maryland in 2013.
Ashley Herendon shows no signs of slowing down.