By Tom Collins
MAITLAND — One of Canada’s top university track and field athletes has come home to help her family with the dairy farm.
Ashley Connell, 23, was recently named Guelph University’s female athlete of the year and won gold at the national university championships in shotput and weight throw in Edmonton in March. Connell holds the Guelph University shotput record of 15.60 metres and the school’s weight throw record of 18.46 metres.
She won four university championship medals and seven Ontario university athletic medals over the past four years.
Connell was in the midst of a five-year food, agricultural and resource economics degree when her dad needed ankle surgery last year and realized Connell needed to come home sooner. Connell spent the past year studying so she could graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is now back home at Locus Lane Farms Ltd. at Maitland near Brockville to help milk 104 Holsteins in the family’s tie-stall barn.
Connell told Farmers Forum that her athletic career is on hold while she helps out on the farm.
“I just feel like my body needs a break,” she said. “Going to the gym three times a week for four to five years is tough on it. When I’m at home, I’m pretty much in the barn all the time so I don’t have time to go out and train.”
She and her brother, Jeff, plan to become the sixth-generation farmers. Connell said she got into athletics after her high school rugby season had ended. The track coach recruited Connell and only a few weeks later she was competing at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations in Toronto.
She said her father told her he was watching from the stands as she competed in the shotput and was thinking, “We’ve just got to get you stone picking here. That’s what makes you big and strong.’”