All-Empire Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: Moffett hit stride in senior year

Casa Grande's Ashley Moffett is the 2013 girls all-empire cross country runner.   (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Casa Grande’s Ashley Moffett is the cross-country runner of the year. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Running punishing races came easy to Ashley Moffett and the Casa Grande senior drew on that strength with a comeback campaign earning Empire Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.

Winning a second North Coast Section title and making a third state finals, this time with the Casa Grande girls’ team alongside, Moffett rediscovered a joy for running.

“I just really wanted to finish strong, just leave it all out there,” she said. “The season was very rewarding.”

Moffett was coming off a junior campaign that seemed a steady struggle to equal her breakout sophomore year as the Empire’s top cross-country runner. Disappointed with times still among the region’s best, Moffett was frustrated despite strong finishes at sections and state.

“I was still running pretty well, but not like I wanted to. I think I expected it would be easier,” she recalled.

“It was a wake-up call. You have to be as mentally tough as physically tough. It just motivated me.”

The one time wide-eyed novice became a seasoned competitor.

Logging more miles last summer, including a Lake Tahoe cross-country camp, was a start. With a solid base, Moffett also regained confidence to start races out front and work to stay there through the finish.

“Ashley managed to parlay her strength and peak at the right time,” said Casa Grande coach Carl Triola. “A lot of kids would like to make state once. To make it three times is pretty cool.”

A strong start to the season included winning the Rancho Cotate Invitational and a second place in the Viking Opener.

Finishing fourth in the North Bay League meet didn’t disappoint Moffett. In addition to being sick the previous week, Moffett faced a very deep field in a new league, as Casa Grande moved over from the Sonoma County League.

“I didn’t know what I was capable of. I just had a lot of consistency and success,” she said.

Moffett’s runs at the section finals are a model of consistency. With a win and a second-place finish, Moffett was poised for another great race in Hayward. Even a rain-soaked, muddy course was to her liking.

“I like cold weather. I prefer running in rain. I liked the challenge,” she said. “In those conditions you have to conserve energy, not fall down, but run fast enough.”

Winning against adversity reminded Moffett of her first section title. Leading at the 2-mile mark, she took a wrong turn. Scrambling back up a hill, Moffett would tap what energy remained, regain the lead in that final mile and win the race.

“Ashley needs to pretty much set the tone of a race early,” Triola said. “She trained more aggressively for this season. That allowed her to get back to that level of toughness.”

Along the way Moffett led a young Casa Grande team back to the California Interscholastic Federation finals, in Fresno. She qualified as an individual the previous two years.

“I knew that they had the ability to get there,” she said. “I would just encourage and push them. I’d like to think that I helped the team.”

Indeed she did, with fellow senior Chloe Hall, helping younger runners recognize the commitment required to reach the state prep championships — every team’s goal.

Her passion for running strong, Moffett hopes to continue the sport in college.

“My confidence has been boosted a lot,” Moffett said. “I feel a lot more prepared.”

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