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As career at Nebraska winds down, Missoula's Ashley McElmurry still leaping toward lofty goals

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Posted at 7:36 PM, May 20, 2024

MISSOULA — As her college track and field career winds to a close, everything is coming together nicely for Ashley McElmurry.

The Missoula native, Sentinel High School product and current athlete at the University of Nebraska completed a personal-best mark in the triple jump at the Big 10 Conference meet with a jump of 43 feet, 10½ inches to take second place, but also place herself top 10 in the NCAA West bracket heading into regionals.

She scratched on her first attempt which was a good mark, so all McElmurry needed to do was settle in.

"So I was like, OK, OK, we're feeling it, we can do this. That gave me a lot of confidence going into the second mark, and then I was just hoping I could calm my nerves and relax and go out and get a good mark," McElmurry said. "So it was a really great feeling to do that and see it. It was so fun. I had my parents and my sister there. So for me, it was just like a really awesome experience I'll forever be thankful for.

"I put a lot of my trust in God. I'm a very religious person. And so just remembering that I'm not out there alone, that I have the Lord on my side is one of the things that helped settle me and calm me down."

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Ashley McElmurry competes in the triple jump for the University of Nebraska.

It was a validating final conference meet for McElmurry, who now sits in a strong position heading into the NCAA West Preliminary with an eye on qualifying for nationals. The regional meet will be held this Wednesday through Saturday at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and McElmurry enters the meet tied for 10th in the triple jump and 38th in the long jump. The top 12 placers in every event at both the West and East Preliminary meets advance to the NCAA D1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships which are held June 5-8 at Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon.

"Previous regional meets have always been kind of like a hope, but it was definitely everything would have to go right kind of situation," said McElmurry, who will be competing in her third regional meet. "And now this year, just being in more of a potential for it to actually happen is really cool. So I'm just hoping I can put it all together and have a shot to gain another meet would be really cool."

McElmurry's decorated success at Sentinel carried over to her time at Nebraska, as she's been a three-time conference placer in triple jump. She took third in indoor triple jump in 2021, second in indoor in 2022 while this year was her first time placing at the meet in outdoor.

There's been adversities such as the COVID-19 pandemic when she began her career, a coaching change, plus an ankle injury hampered her a year ago, but this senior season she's found a way to compete stress-free and in turn has had one of her most successful campaigns in terms of accomplishments and health.

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Missoula's Ashley McElmurry, left, has been a three-time conference placer at the University of Nebraska in triple jump.

"I would say that this has been probably one of my favorite seasons ever," McElmurry said. "I think coming from indoor just required a lot of patience and kind of like trusting the process, which hasn't always been easy. But I would say that it's been a completely different mindset. And a mindset shift for me just knowing that it is my last season and just trying to go out and be thankful that I am in a position where I'm healthy, and I get to compete and just be thankful that I have the opportunity to compete on such a big stage and all of that. So that's really changed the way that I compete. And I think it's made it easier to just be relaxed and thankful and enjoy the whole process.

"There's been so many times through my track career where, you know, maybe you just feel defeated for a moment, like it had been almost two years since I had PR’d and that was just really tough. I had gotten really close to it, but, you know, not there. But being able to kind of come out the other side and just see like trusting the process and staying the course will pay off has been like a really valuable lesson that my new coach (Vincent Johnson) has taught me and something that I'll definitely carry through for forever."

It was an intimidating feat to make the jump to the Big 10 for McElmurry, but as she reflects on her career, her time in Lincoln has meant the world through the ups and down.

"I'm just so grateful and thankful for the opportunity to get to compete here, the amount of amazing people and friendships I've developed from being here," McElmurry reflected. "It was a little bit scary deciding to go in the Big 10 just because I didn't really know how it would go. I hope that I'd be around, you know, really good athletes, good people, and be able to rise to the level of the competition and, you know, be able to accomplish some long-term goals and be able to become a good triple jumper, but honestly I didn't know if it was going to be possible.

"Being able to come here and just keep improving and be able to finish my degree here has meant the world to me and I'm going to be really sad to leave, but I'm going to be so thankful for the amazing experience I got to have. It's meant the world to me getting to be here."

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Missoula's Ashley McElmurry, right, and her sister Audrey, who competes at Sacramento State, both competed against one another in college for the first time back in the indoor season.

As she aims to accomplish these final goals before embarking on nursing school back in Montana — she'll enroll in Montana State's accelerated nursing program after graduating with a major in human development and family science and triple minors in psychology, sociology and business and will be placed in Billings when she returns — McElmurry carries her Treasure State background with pride as she gets set for regionals and a potential run to the championships before it's all said and done.

"I carry a lot of pride in telling people where I'm from," McElmurry said. "I still feel that support even five years into college and almost graduated and so I've been really fortunate with that. I have coaches that I still talk to from high school that, you know, congratulate me and all that kind of stuff. Like, I just still feel the community support being so far away, which is really unique and amazing."