MISSOULA – One of Montana’s best jumpers is heading to the Big Ten.
Missoula Sentinel senior Ashley McElmurry announced her decision to commit to the University of Nebraska’s track and field program on Wednesday on Twitter.
“I chose Nebraska mainly because of their facilities and their coaching staff,” McElmurry said before Sentinel’s basketball practice on Thursday. “When I went there I instantly fell in love with it.”
Nebraska’s head track and field coach, Gary Pepin, is also the team’s jumps coach and is a 2008 inductee into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame. His impact on the program was a key selling point for the Sentinel standout.
“Having the head coach be the jumps coach is cool because he’s focused on that,” McElmurry said. “The moment that I realized that this might be the place for me was when I walked into their indoor facility and all around the whole gym was just posters and banners of the Olympians who went to Nebraska. I was like wow, this place has an actual legacy and it’s insane.
“I felt so inspired when I was there. We got to try on the jerseys and uniforms and everything and I just wanted to go jump.”
McElmurry accepted an athletic scholarship to compete for the Huskers. She said she chose Nebraska over Utah, Washington State, Colorado State and Idaho. She said she also had some contact with Michigan as well. Her focus in college will be the triple and long jump, but McElmurry said she has also discussed doing the heptathlon as well which includes the 100 hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200-meter dash, long jump, javelin and 800.
McElmurry said the decision was not an easy one but the recruiting process as a whole was a fun experience.
“There were just so many different opportunities, which I was very fortunate to get to have,” McElmurry said. “It was amazing. My mom and dad both did (college sports) at UM. They were all super excited and like, ‘Oh, Nebraska’s a really awesome school.’”
McElmurry said at the end of her junior year of track is when schools began contacting her. Growing up, a power five conference school was her pie-in-the-sky dream, so when those offers began pouring in, it became simply a matter of choosing which one fit her the best.
"Ashley is a model student-athlete," Sentinel track coach Craig Mettler said. "She represents everything that we preach at Sentinel — high achieving academic and multi-sport athlete. She is a compassionate young lady who comes from a great family that has instilled the values of work ethic and perseverance.
"We have been fortunate to have a person such as Ashley in our program. We couldn't be more proud of Ashley. Great things are in her future at Nebraska."
McElmurry’s father, Blaine McElmurry, played football at Montana before spending five seasons in the NFL. Blaine's sister, Catie, played for the Lady Griz. Ashley's mother, Kristine McElmurry, was a track and field athlete at UM as well. So Ashley is simply continuing a family tradition of sorts with college athletics, one she is proud to carry.
“It’s so cool. I start thinking about it and I just get a big smile on my face,” McElmurry said. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was so little and now it’s seriously a dream come true. I’m getting to do a college sport and what I love.”
She added with a big laugh, “It’s so awesome. I’m so excited.”
In her three years of high school track, McElmurry’s success is evident and everywhere. She is a 10-time state placer, winning the triple jump her sophomore year and setting the Class AA record that year. Her junior year she placed second in the long jump and 300 hurdles while also taking fifth in the 100 hurdles. She also placed second in the triple jump after fellow Sentinel standout Lauren Heggen broke the all-class record in the triple.
With McElmurry’s help, Sentinel’s girls are the two-time defending Class AA state champs.
And with Nebraska being a football school, McElmurry laughed when thinking about her father’s reaction to Husker football games.
“It was pretty cute,” McElmurry recalled. “After I told them that I was going to commit to Nebraska, they said, ‘We thought you might say that.’ So they brought out this big bin and they all had clothing from Nebraska because they were all ready to go. They all had sweatshirts and shirts and they got me some stuff and it was super cool.”
McElmurry said she wants to go into pre-med and eventually move into dermatology.
For McElmurry, a true three-sport athlete who competes in soccer in the fall and starts for the basketball team in the winter, track and field was always her first love and the one she wanted to continue into her college years.
“I have just loved it for so long,” McElmurry said. “It’s pretty cool because my mom did hurdles and my dad did jumps in high school. So being able to do both hurdles and jumps has been really fun because I can share it with both of them. So it’s this cool middle thing that we all have together.”
McElmurry also won't be the lone Montanan on Nebraska's track and field roster. Sidney native Garrison Hughes, a three-time Class A state pole vaulting champion, is currently a freshman on the team.
In the age of specialization, McElmurry knowing what she wanted to pursue and yet staying with her other sports is rarely seen. But for her, skipping soccer of basketball season was not an option.
And with her commitment off of her shoulders, she’s fully locked in on basketball.
“It’s pretty cool that I get to do three sports and get to graduate as a three-sport athlete,” McElmurry said. “I feel really happy about getting to do all these sports. I get to work with a new group of people in each of them and I just get these experiences that I’ll remember forever. I’m super excited to give it all I’ve got for this last season.”