BRYANT – Bryant Lady Hornets’ senior distance runner Ashlyn Lessenberry had a decent idea where she wanted to go to college when she found out where her best friend was going to play softball. Lessenberry is following her friend, Kayla Sory, to Henderson State University as she signed a letter of intent to run for the Lady Reddies in the Bryant Gym on Wednesday morning.
Henderson State is an NCAA Division II school a part of the Great American Conference and Lessenberry explained she emailed the Lady Reddies’ coach asking if she would be interested in another runner, and the rest was history.
“She contacted me back and she had me text her every time we had a race and all my times,” Lessenberry said. “And after season, she said we needed to meet up. She said you’re a really good runner and you would be a great asset to the team and that’s how I got on.”
Lessenberry considered attending the University of Arkansas, but decided it was too big, and Blue Mountain College in northern Mississippi, but it was too small. Henderson State, located in Arkadelphia, “was kind of perfect,” according to Lessenberry.
With a career-best time of 22.08 in the 5K, Lessenberry said she had never ran over a mile before moving to Bryant her ninth-grade year. She became a part of the Bryant cross-country team the same year and has lettered all four years.
“Ashlyn dedicated herself to training as a distance runner and this scholarship is a reward for her commitment,” Bryant cross country coach Danny Westbrook said. “She leaves Bryant a multi-sport champion and she will be missed. Our program will not be the same without her, but we wish her well in her future college career.”
Lessenberry was a team scorer and played an integral part in Bryant’s team titles at both the 2009 and 2010 Central Conference Cross Country Championships, according to Westbrook.
She also was a member of the 2010 and 2011 state championship-winning Lady Hornets softball team. Softball Coach Debbie Clark joked how players dreaded Lessenberry would set the pace when they had to run, but was serious in what kind of teammate and player she was.
“If everyone was as easy to coach as Ashlyn is, my job would be pretty much like taking money,” Clark said. “She’s an incredible teammate and an incredible young lady to have in our program.”
Her father, Lee Lessenberry, is a Henderson State alum.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Lee Lessenberry said. “Any time you graduate from an institution, you embody a part of that in yourself, and to see that passed on to one of your children, there’s just a lot of opportunity and it just looks great for the future.
Ashlyn Lessenberry already knows what she wants to do for her future – a first-grade teacher. Lessenberry had no qualms when asked if she would play softball for the Lady Reddies as well.
“I’d rather just run.”