Blue Springs High School graduate Ashley Sturman had a stressful first three years on the Drury University women’s swimming and diving team.
She said she put a lot of pressure on herself to make the NCAA Division II Swimming and Diving Championships, but wasn’t able to get over the hump.
This year, the senior decided to take a new approach.
“I don’t put a lot of pressure on myself anymore,” Sturman said. “I just swim for fun and go out there to do the best I can do.”
It seemed to work.
Sturman finally made the cut to qualify for the NCAA Division II Championships at the IU Natatorium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis. She qualified in the 200-yard butterfly as the No. 26 seed, the final qualifying spot. Because she qualified for the 200 butterfly, she also will get to compete in her other main event – the 400 individual medley. She will compete in the 400 IM preliminaries at 10 a.m. Thursday and the 200 butterfly prelims at 10 a.m. Friday.
“I am excited to get to experience nationals. This is my first time getting to go,” Sturman said. “I am swimming a lot better now that I am not putting pressure on myself.”
She’s also helped Drury to a No. 2 ranking in the NCAA Division II national poll.
“My senior season has been my most successful at Drury,” Sturman said. “I’ve spent a lot of extra time this season focusing on my swimming career and just wanting to end my swimming career with a bang.
“I got best times in all the events that I swam. I am really happy with it.”
She attributes another change to her newfound success, as well.
“I decided to work really hard in practice every day,” Sturman said.
During the Mizzou Invitational in November, she qualified for the national championships in the 200 butterfly with a season-best time of 2 minutes, 3.84 seconds.
“(My coaches) told me I was going to do great,” Sturman said. “And I said no, I am just going to go out there and swim and have fun. I was having fun at that meet. My teammates and coaches knew that was the meet I was going to do the best in.
“There was a teammate filming me on his phone and I touched the wall and I looked at the clock and knew I made it to nationals. I didn’t get first place and I don’t even remember what place I got. It was not first, but you would have thought I did because I threw my fist in the air. And my coach looked back at me and threw his fist in the air. I was so proud of myself. Other people were looking around wondering, ‘Why, are they so excited?’ I got in by the hair of my chinny-chin-chin.”
Her father, Robert Sturman, was her coach for most of her life, including Blue Springs High School where he was the coach for 13 years. He has been one of her biggest supporters, attending most of her meets.
“It’s been a really nice college experience for me to have him as a dad, and experience him as my dad and my dad only,” Sturman said. “There are some times he helps me understand what my coaches say. He can put it into different words that he’ll know I’ll understand. It’s nice that we have that father-daughter relationship instead of a swimmer-coach relationship. That’s what we had almost my entire swimming career up until college.”
And she will cap off her career in Indianapolis.
“I’ll just do the best I can do, and hope it’s a good time,” Sturman said.
Sturman will have some company in Indianapolis. Her former Blue Springs teammate, Mariah Hagerty, had a diving season to remember for Maryville University in St. Louis.
The senior set the school record and qualified for nationals with a score of 401 in the preliminaries of the Delta State Christmas Invite in December.
Hagerty also took second in 1-meter diving (378.55) and 3-meter diving events (393.20) in the Great Lakes Valley Conference Swimming and Diving Championships in February.