By Rob Daniels
GREENSBORO, N.C. – UNCG's Monarch of Multitasking admits it's a bit odd. Here she is on the verge of competing in an NCAA regional, and Ashley Schnell owes a good bit of it to relative simplicity.
The redshirt junior, who once had to pass on the final day of a conference meet to prepare for a university symphony concert, will become the first woman to represent UNCG at an NCAA postseason track event this week. She'll be in Bloomington, Ind., and competing in the 5,000 meters because – at least in part – she and her coach elected to concentrate on that race and de-emphasize the 1,500.
Chalk one up for specificity, but don't expect this to become an all-inclusive trend. Schnell's not dropping the violin any time soon; she's merely acceding to competitive common sense.
"I knew from the regional results of last year that the 5K would be my best shot to get in to the (NCAA regionals)," Schnell said. "I only had to cut four seconds off my time. In the 1,500, I would have had to drop nine seconds.
"I was comfortable with the decision, and I supported it."
She also knew from personal experience about the perils of overwork at this level. While competing two years ago for Coe College in the Division III championship, Schnell placed third in the 1,500 but had to drop out of the 5,000 because the events fell too close together on the schedule one day.
She then transferred to UNCG to seek a Division I athletic career and to pursue her other passion, classical music. While generally finding harmony in the process, Schnell has learned that musical performance is an atypical major. This past winter, the Southern Conference indoor track meet was scheduled for the same weekend as a mandatory university symphony concert in Winston-Salem. The performance was the centerpiece of a class Schnell required in pursuit of her degree. Miss the show and fail the class.
So after running on Friday in Clemson, S.C., Schnell rode back to the Triad for a Saturday dress rehearsal and the performance on Sunday. The rest of the track meet would have to go on without her.
"When you're at the college level, you have to be willing to sacrifice different things," she said. "Music is going to be my career and running is a really big passion of mine. It worked out the best that it could have. It was a bit of a squeeze, but it wasn't horrible."
From the mile to Mahler's Fourth Symphony, it was quite a weekend. Shnell has broken the school record in every event in which she has participated in 2010-11 – in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track. In the process, she has become the first Spartan woman to qualify for an NCAA regional.
The 5,000 is divided into two heats of 24 runners each. The top five runners in each heat will automatically advance and the other two runners with the best two overall times in the two heats will advance.
Ranked 39th out of 48 competitors in the East regionals in the 5,000, she'll need to shave another 15 to 20 seconds off her best time to advance past her heat on Saturday. Ultimately, 12 athletes from this weekend's race will advance to the NCAA championships next month.
- UNCG -