Earles signs for RCC cross countryApr 18, 2022
Ashlyn Earles was not always a runner. But five years ago, when her dad, Wyndell Earles, turned 50 and was diagnosed with diabetes, they began running together.
She joined the cross-country team at Community Baptist Schools and ran all four years of high school, with her dad coaching two seasons.
Now, not only has she enrolled in Rockingham Community College, she’s the first student athlete to sign on with RCC’s brand-new cross-country program.
Along with the inspiration from her dad, Earles was touched by the 2019 movie “Overcomer,” in which a basketball coach is asked to take over a cross-country program. You see, Ashlyn plays basketball too. And one of the main characters in the movie is a runner who has asthma – another aspect that hit home with Earles.
Andrea Earles – a 1989 RCC graduate who transferred to UNC-Greensboro for her bachelor’s degree – explained that her daughter has a mild case of asthma, stemming from being born 15 weeks early. “She was a micro preemie,” she said with a smile.
But the asthma never slowed down Earles much, and she started playing soccer as a youngster. Her dad pointed out that running helps with the disease “by opening things up.”
“It would trigger when I would sprint real fast,” Earles said. “But staying fit really improved (the symptoms).”
And Earles has excelled in running, placing in the top 10 for cross country in Community Baptist’s conference.
Rockingham Community College is fortunate to have her as the first runner of the women’s cross-country team – a program set to start in fall 2022.
“We’re extremely excited to have you here on campus and can’t wait to see all the wonderful things you achieve on the cross-country team,” SGA President Dayahna Blatchley told her during a pep rally on April 12.RCC Eagles Baseball infielder Cam Lowke and Lady Eagles Volleyball player Miriah Dudley both welcomed Ashlyn to campus, as did RCC Vice President for Student Development Dr. Bob Lowdermilk.
“It’s great to welcome you and your family not only into the realm of RCC, but as the first sign-on for our cross-country team. We hope to learn from you. You might inspire some of us to want to get back into running as we may have done at some point in time. Maybe not competitively, but in other ways,” he said.
Lowdermilk praised the academic accomplishments of the student-athletes on RCC’s other long-established teams, baseball and volleyball.
“It’s one thing to be successful on the court or on the field or on the trail, but also another thing to be successful in the classroom. We’re really proud of where we’ve come. You’re coming into something that’s really great, and I thank you for being a part of that.”
RCC faculty Morgan Burnette will coach the women’s and men’s cross-country teams.
He has been a competitive runner in 5K, 10K, and half-marathon races for the past six years. He has run three marathons, and his team took third in a 50-mile ultramarathon relay race.
“I’ve been really excited to help start this program. Ultimately what it’s about is giving athletes a space and place to base their skills and hard work, not only on the field but in the classroom. I’m really proud to be contributing to building that space for our athletes and our college,” said Burnette, who is working with RCC Director of Student Engagement and Athletics Maggie Murray.
“Maggie and I have gotten a lot done in a short period of time in building connections with other programs in the area, collaborating with them. I’m very confident that we’re going to have a really competitive program in the fall,” he said.
“We are expanding our wings at RCC; our flock is growing, which is so important and so exciting, for not only our student athletes, but for our fans, our community, our campus as a whole,” Murray said.
“One of the reasons why we went with (men’s and women’s) cross country as our next two teams is that we have 256 beautiful acres. That’s a whole bunch of running space,” she said. “Adding men’s and women’s cross country to a community college is not an easy feat. We are part of the National Junior College Athletic Association and through them, and being an athletic program, we do not get funding from the state.”
All of RCC’s funding for athletics comes from donors, student activity fees, and grants. “We are so grateful we have such a great community of people to support our student athletes. We do believe that with a student athlete, student comes first, then athlete,” she said. “Since 2017, we’ve had 41 student athletes transfer to play baseball or volleyball, and now cross country is coming into the mix, so we’re going to get even more people transferring and continuing their academic careers as well as their athletic careers.”
~By RCC Director of Public Information Gerri Hunt