Upon entering high school last fall, Ashtyn Lewis admits she wasn’t exactly crazy about being an Iowa Colony Pioneer.
She saw herself starting the next level instead as a Shark or Buffalo.
However, once she got accustomed to her surroundings during the school year, the freshman not only accepted the new tag, she embraced it.
Now Lewis also knows the “Pioneer” nickname comes with another reward - Like being the first.
Lewis received that ultimate feeling two weeks ago in Austin when the Iowa Colony freshman became the inaugural student-athlete in school history to win a state championship at the Class 4A State Track and Field Meet, May 11.
Lewis blazed to a gold medal victory in the girls’ 400 meters, completing the race in 55.74 seconds, topping runner-up Treasure Vallerie, of San Antonio Kennedy (57.34) by almost two seconds. Lewis also joined teammates Arius Williams, Hannah Young and Bailey Wilturner in claiming the bronze medal in the girls’ 4X400 Relay (3:55.36) and combined with Williams, Young and Adriana Murry for a fifth place in the 4X200 relay (1:43.31).
“It feels great to be a Pioneer now,” Lewis said. “At first, I didn’t like the name, but now I would rather live up to the name Pioneer, because I know what it means to be one.
“We also wanted to get gold in the relay, but it was great to get the bronze in the race the first time.”
Lewis didn’t see herself as a sprinter either when she started competing in track two years ago as a seventh grader at Manvel Junior High. It took more than a little convincing the youth by Warriors’ coach Rachel Easley (who also serves as her coach now at Iowa Colony) that the shorter route was a better fit.
“I didn’t think I was fast, so I wanted to see if I could run long,” she said. “But Coach Easley said that wasn’t a good idea and that I was going to run the sprint out relay. I was already running the mile, the 800 and the 400.
“I didn’t like running the 400 at first, but Coach Easley said I was going to turn into a 4X200 runner and I felt I could work with that. I knew I had sprinter’s speed. I just didn’t know what I could do with it.
“We did a lot of wickets and that really helped my foot speed get faster and my times go down.”
The result was Lewis dominating the 400 meter regular season competition, before sweeping through at the District 26-4A (55.67 seconds), area (56.01) and Region IV (56.80) meets to enter state as the top seed for that event.
Easley credits Lewis’ work ethic as being the most valuable tool in the freshman’s supply.
“Her natural ability could have gotten her to state, but the fact that she always works hard is the thing that impresses me the most and is what makes her great,” the Iowa Colony coach said. “Iron sharpens iron and she makes the whole team better the way she works.”
Easley said Lewis’ willingness to also run through a “wall for her teammates,” also came into play prior to the state meet. Despite having competed and qualified with her teammates for state in the 4X200 relay at regionals, the Iowa Colony coach just wanted the freshman concentrating on the 400 in Austin.
Going through the 4A competition schedule, Easley immediately noticed that there was less than a hour’s difference between the relay and the 400.
“Initially we (the coaches) were like no, even though Ashtyn said she wanted to run the relay,” Easley said. “We had looked at the schedule and saw there was only a 45-minute difference between the 4X200 and the 400. We weighed the pros and cons and finally said OK, let’s see what she does. Her time was so much ahead of everyone else.
“But expectations vs. reality, the 45-minute difference seemed a lot shorter, like five minutes. All the coaches in the stands were spazzing out, thinking about how little recovery time she had. “But she did the relay, then went out there in the 400 and still opened up and won.
“I was talking to her afterwards and her response was if I had asked her to run the mile, she would have run the mile for her team. That’s just a testament to who she is.”
Just as Lewis thrived in the short time element pressure cooker, she also brushed off any nerves about competing against upper classmen competition at state.
“I thought about it a couple of days before state and that made me a little nervous, because I didn’t want to go into the competition scare or nervous,” she said. “But I knew I was the number one seed by two seconds and that I had run against juniors and seniors all year. That served as a big confidence booster.
“I’m always telling myself that I can, I can and then I will and I will and then it happened.”
The Pioneer experience officially reached full circle for Lewis.
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