After his mother gave birth to his youngest sister, Ronnie Ash and his family moved from a rundown area in New Jersey to Knightdale in search of opportunity. Ash found that opportunity on the track.
Ash, a 2008 graduate of Knightdale High School who only attended the school during his senior year, said he never would have tried out for the track team if Knightdale track and field coach David Castell hadnt been so persistent.
That had to be the most awkward experience for me in the world, Ash said with a laugh. The basketball coach and coach Castell met with me to see if I played either one and I told them both no. The other coach gave up eventually, but coach Castell kept meeting me after class and asking me why he hadnt seen me.
I finally gave in because I thought I could meet new people, and I guess it ended up working out.
Ashs track career has more than just worked out to this point. The 25-year old hurdler set records at both Bethune-Cookman University and Oklahoma University for 60- and 100-meter hurdles while winning five conference championships, making five All-American squads and winning three national championships.
Following his junior year at Oklahoma, Ash decided to turn to the professional ranks and signed with Nike. After less than two years of competing professionally, Ash will compete for a spot on the U.S. Olympic track team as a 110-meter hurdler next week in Eugene, Ore.
With all of the success that he found at the collegiate level, Castell said when he first met Ash he had other plans for his life when he graduated high school.
When I first met Ronnie, he told me he wanted to go straight into the work force when he graduated, Castell said. I kept telling him that he had a chance to be great at running hurdles and he needed to change his plans. When Bethune-Cookman gave him his opportunity, he finally started believing what I was telling him.
Though leg and foot injuries have hampered the hurdlers opportunities at competing in as many events as he would like, Ash recently won two events at the Florida and Kansas Relays with one win coming over David Oliver, the U.S. record holder.
Ash said he learned from a good friend, 2000 and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Angelo Taylor, that he needed to start taking care of his body
I havent let injuries slow me down when I compete, Ash said. You just have to be smart and take care of your body when it comes to track and hurdling especially. Angelo Taylor told me that I needed to take care of my body because he saw potential for me to make it as an Olympian.
While the Olympic trials begin on June 23, Ash will not compete until June 29. Ash said he isnt completely healthy, but his competitive spirit will take over when he shows up to compete.
Right now I feel about 85-90 percent healthy, but when I get there I will be 150 percent ready, Ash said. My mind takes over my body when I get into those situations and it drives me to get where I want. I guess its just adrenaline, but its for the pinnacle of our sport.
A lot of people dream of making it to the Olympics, now I have a chance to finally make that dream a reality. Im not going to miss my chance.