Kevin Colley, Staff Writer
MINFORD — One always knows what you’re going to get out of Ashley Blankenship … whether it’s as an athlete or as a person.
Whether it’s accumulating a stat line of 12 points and 10 rebounds — that’s a regular night for the senior — or carrying herself as a humble, outgoing student-athlete, Minford’s 6-foot-2 center has always delivered.
The all-SOC girls basketball and volleyball standout, who has been an all district honoree in both sports, eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone on Jan. 10 against West, becoming the sixth girl in Minford High School history to do so.
Ever humble and grateful for the accomplishment, Blankenship, however, credits that to a team that she considers her family.
“It was such a great feeling,” Blankenship said. “However, it was even better knowing that without God and my teammates, it would’ve never been possible.”
It’s clear that Blankenship has put in the necessary work to be great at multiple sports at a time. A dynamo of a post player and middle hitter, Blankenship averaged 9.5 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks per affair as a sophomore en route to third-team all-district honors.
She then stepped it up a notch as a junior, averaging 16 points, 9.4 rebounds, and 3.8 blocks, collecting second-team all-district honors.
Her success is just as pronounced in volleyball.
Over her four-year career, Blankenship collected 854 kills with a .250 attack percentage, while also adding in 157 solo blocks and 77 assisted blocks as a frontline player.
Much of those accolades were accomplished in her senior season alone, where Blankenship posted a monster 441-kill campaign — easily annihilating the school record for kills in a single season as a result.
Those efforts earned her first-team all-SOC, co-SOC Player of the Year, and first-team all-district accolades.
“I’ve learned to find my weaknesses,” Blankenship said of her improvements in both sports. “I’ve always been someone who will put time and effort into something just to be the best for my team, and with that, I’ve come a long way since my freshman year. Volleyball became a sport that I learned to love. Having the teammates that I was lucky to have made my senior year a blast. I couldn’t have achieved anything without them.”
Iit’s that bond across teammates in multiple sports that has led Blankenship, and Minford, to great accomplishments as a whole.
The girls basketball program has gone a combined 67-19 in Blankenship’s four seasons, including a 24-3 record last winter alongside the school’s first SOC II championship since 2013 and the school’s first Division III district championship since 2011.
“My teammates are some of my best friends,” Blankenship said. “I wouldn’t change the relationships that I have with them, both on and off of the court, for anything. And my coaches made sure to not only get to know me as a player, but also, as a person. Knowing from the beginning of the year that I could possibly reach 1,000 points … my goal for each game was to go out and have fun while also getting wins.”
It’s clear, just from the numbers and overall success, that Blankenship never takes any moment too seriously.
For example, during Minford’s bus ride to Columbus Africentric for last year’s Division III regional semifinal, the junior — along with her teammates — was screaming the tune of the best pop hits from today, as well as yesteryear.
“The bus ride to regionals is one thing that I will never forget,” Blankenship said. “We knew going up there that we would have to fight hard in order to win, but instead of stressing and worrying, we danced and sang the whole way there.”
And of course, Blankenship holds excellent memories of a certain teammate who’s record of 1,629 points is an everyday reminder of how special the 2017-2018 basketball season really was.
“Erin [Daniels] scoring her 1,000th point [against Jackson] is another favorite memory,” Blankenship said. “Just being in the atmosphere and feeling the excitement was another joy.”
Blankenship says she plans for this season to be the end of her athletic career, as far as a playing standpoint is concerned.
She wants to follow the beat of her own drum and focus strictly on the academic side while possibly helping the younger generations at Minford recreate the successes she has been lucky enough to see.
“I struggled with realizing that basketball isn’t all that the world consists of,” Blankenship said. “Therefore, I hope that over these next few years, I can find other things that I enjoy just as much. In college, I hope to pursue a degree in physical therapy and possibly do so while coaching a biddy ball team.”
The memories she’s made, and the ones that are to come, will never leave her. One thing is for sure: Ashley Blankenship has left her mark on Minford.
“I wouldn’t change my experiences for anything,” Blankenship said. “Knowing that there are little girls sitting in the stands and watching my every move, and anticipating being part of the success that is happening here at Minford is an honor.”