Blue Springs swimming and diving coach Bill Shalley believes that even with performances like her convincing wins two Saturdays ago at the Kansas City Classic, Wildcat junior Ashley Sturman still is just scratching the surface of her potential.
“The closest was probably at state last year,” Shalley said. “She’s got tons in the tank. She’s really fun to watch when she gets a hold of a race.
“I think she’s stepping forward, realizing what she needs to do.”
Sturman’s KC Classic winning times of 1 minute, 57.59 seconds in the 200-yard freestyle and 5:17.35 in the 500 freestyle were 2.35 and 3.69, better than second place, respectively, and right after the 500 she broke 25 seconds for a lifetime-best 50-yard split to help Blue Springs win the 200 free relay.
But the junior agrees that overall she’s capable of more, and she is confident she’ll tap more of her reserves during this weekend’s Suburban Big Six Championships and two weeks later at the state meet.
“My 200 free I’m very happy with, but my 500 I wish was little bit faster,” Sturman said. “I’ve been having a really rough time with that. Personally, I like shorter distances, but I do swim the 500 really well when I want to. With all training I’ve put in, I think it will all work out.”
At state last year, Sturman finished eighth in the 200 free (1:56.44) and seventh in the 500 free (5:11.8, after clocking 5:07.93 in the preliminaries). Admittedly, she hasn’t raced as well as she possibly could this year when out in front by a comfortable margin.
“That’s where I have problems,” she said. “I’ve always been taught to race the clock, but with USA Swimming and at state I always have someone to race with, as opposed to dual meets and smaller invitationals.”
When pushed, that’s when Sturman’s desire, which her father Robert says could be her strongest trait as a swimmer, kicks in.
“She doesn’t like to lose,” said the elder Sturman, himself a former swimmer at the University of Kansas who was Blue Springs’ co-coach with Shalley until a couple years ago, when he stepped aside to devote more time to the Kansas City Dolphins swim club, now part of Team Swim Academy. “She hates to lose more than she likes to win, and I always was (like that) too.”
Sturman echoes her father’s assessment, which is a big reason she enjoys taking part in relays so much.
“I have the drive to beat someone that’s in front of me,” she said. “I love the relays. I love to chase people, love to chase them down. It’s my favorite thing to do, because I want them to think I’m coming for them, and if I have the right mindset, I’ll do it.”
In addition to reaching state-qualifying times in her freestyle events, Sturman is part of three Blue Springs relays – along with Leigh Ana Dietiker, Corinne Rinne and Lindsey Meyer – that have earned state times.
Robert Sturman said that in addition to freestyle, butterfly is a strong stroke for his daughter.
“It just depends on what the team needs,” he said. “She’s good at anything – breaststroke is probably her weakest, but she’s a decent (individual medley swimmer). In club for me she’s a really good 100, 200 butterfly. It just depends on what Shalley needs her for and what I need her for on the club side.”
The KC Classic, Shalley said, provided a glimpse of what he hopes to see from Sturman as she closes out her junior season.
“She’s one of those people that when she gets a hold of a set or a race, she’s just capable of running away with it and just gets after it,” he said. “There’s a wonderful background there, wonderful ability.”