AIKEN – Ashbrook Gwinn will experience just one year at Aiken High School, but she already made the most of it during cross country season.
Gwinn blew away the competition to win an individual state title in her senior season, earning The Augusta Chronicle’s Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year.
Gwinn won the Class AAAA state meet Nov. 9 in Columbia, with a time of 17 minutes, 58.69 seconds, more than 21 seconds faster than the runner-up. It became a common occurrence for Gwinn, who won many of her races by more than 20 seconds after joining the cross country team for her final year.
“It was just a really exciting day,” she said. “I was thankful to have a great race. I was really excited to get the title.”
Gwinn knocked down her best time in the 5,000-meter run from 18:11.21 in 2012 to 17:39 this year. Both she and coach Roger Carpenter attributed the improvement to hard work and a strong support system at Aiken.
“She ran really well for us and helped give the other girls confidence,” Carpenter said. “She could train with some she might not have had in previous years. When you can train with others, that can push you to do better.”
Gwinn made the transition from Mead Hall to Aiken for her final high school year. While at Mead Hall, she won the 2012 South Independent School Association Class A state meet as the team’s lone runner. Despite facing tougher competition, her place in the results didn’t change.
Gwinn also finished 14th in the Foot Locker South Regional on Nov. 30 in Charlotte, N.C., earning her personal best time in the 5,000-meter run.
For Gwinn’s accomplishments, the accolades began accumulating by the end of her high school career. She finished No. 1 in the final South Carolina Track and Cross Country Coaches Association individual poll spanning all classifications in South Carolina.
Gwinn was named the girls state winner of the Wendy’s High School Heisman award, which she was nominated for by school administration.
“That was a huge honor,” Gwinn said. “It meant a lot to me for the administration to believe in me and nominate me for it, especially since I’m new here. That meant a lot to me to represent Aiken.”
Gwinn said she remains undecided on a college, but she plans to run for a cross country team. For now, she is soaking in the remainder of her short but successful time at Aiken, which includes taking AP Biology as she prepares to study veterinary services in college.
“I love Aiken High. It’s really awesome. My teammates have been wonderful welcoming me as a new senior,” Gwinn said.