First-time runner, Ashley Duffy, races for a new sport at Tri-C
By: Johnny Kilroy
In 2017, Ashley Duffy was living in the City of Gqeberha, South Africa and finishing up secondary school, what Americans refer to as high school. Duffy had been a water girl all her life, competing in sporting events for her high school such as water polo, synchronized swimming, and distance swimming. Duffy had never run more than a few miles at a time as extra training for her other sports. Then in 2018, she competed in her first ever cross-country race as a member of the Cuyahoga County Community College (Tri-C) Triceratops women’s cross-country team.
So, what got Duffy started on this journey and how did she get there?
“I moved to the United States in 2018 when I was 18 years old,” said Duffy. “I came during a gap year because I really didn’t know what I wanted to do at first and at the time I was studying accounting.”
Like most people, Duffy needed something to do during 2021 and sitting around wasn’t for her, so she decided to take up running as a hobby. Initially, it was a foregin world for her since she had never run and neither had anyone in her family. It took some training before she was ready to run competitively for the Triceratops.
“I reached out to Coach [Dan] Graber in the fall because I wanted to try something new in sports,” Duffy said. “Coach Graber restarted the program in 2022 and really helped and encouraged me. He took me to my first road race.”
During the spring of 2022, Duffy ran in the Spring in the Park Women’s 10k and 5k on April 30, 2022. She finished sixth overall and second in the 20-29 age group with a time of 23:57.
With these results, Duffy basked in the glory. But it didn’t last long because she achieved a time of 20:40 in her first race for Tri-C at the Wooster Invitational on September 2. “Before my first college race I was super nervous and felt sick,” Duffy said. “I ran a really bad race.”
But Duffy bounced back in her next race with a personal best time of 22:40 in the All-Ohio XC Championships 5K. “I think that has been my proudest moment so far,” Duffy said of running in the All-Ohio.
Duffy says it’s easier to be motivated and disciplined when she is held accountable by not only herself, but by the team and a bigger picture. “I was nervous at first and scared I was going to be too old and slow with the least amount of experience,” Duffy said. “But being on a team with girls younger than me and with a lot of experience is awesome because I learn something new every day.”
Duffy feels that running has helped her academically and has switched her major from accounting to nursing. As a member of the Mandel Scholars program, she plans to attend Cleveland State University after graduating from Tri-C.
Even if Duffy doesn’t continue to run collegiately, she plans to continue running. When the track season begins during the Spring 2023 academic year, Duffy hopes to try the 10K.
“I have a lot of improvements to make and a lot of practice to do,” Duffy said. “But I will definitely continue to run for now because if I don’t run, I go crazy.”