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Bethel Uses Meet as a Testing Ground After Injury

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ashley Bethel was just happy to be competing again. The Mission Viejo senior was a late addition at Saturday’s Mt. San Antonio College Relays, and one of many trying to make up for lost time.

But unlike the other last-minute entries, Bethel was coming off more than just a rain delay. Bethel, among the nation’s top returning high school heptathletes, injured her left knee in the long jump at the National Indoor Championships in Boston early last month and spent 3 1/2 weeks recovering.

She was set to return to a full schedule of events at last weekend’s Arcadia Invitational, despite not being 100%, but rain postponed the meet until Saturday.

“That was kind of funny when it rained at Arcadia,” Bethel said. “I was kind of happy about that.”

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The delay gave Bethel more time to rest her knee, but with no meets scheduled for the upcoming week, Bethel was looking at more time off than she preferred.

That’s when Bethel and her freshman sister, Dana, decided to enter at Mt. SAC.

“I’m pushing myself even harder because it is my senior year,” Bethel said. “I really wanted to be back by Arcadia and Mt. SAC.”

Ashley and Dana found room in the long jump competition and Ashley also sneaked into the high jump. On Wednesday, Ashley was awarded a lane in the 100 hurdles, then Dana found a spot when a third heat was added shortly before the event.

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Ashley, who was third in the state in the 100 hurdles last season, ran in the second heat and finished with the second-best time overall (14.46 seconds). Dana won her heat with a personal-best 14.47, which was third overall.

“I haven’t done anything for 3 1/2 weeks, so it feels good to be back,” Ashley said. “I’m still only about 80% right now, but I’ve been working on a lot of new stuff and it will all come together in the next couple weeks I think.”

Ashley didn’t start practicing the long jump until Monday and said she was tentative in the qualifying round. She reached the finals with a mark of 17 feet 3 inches in her third attempt, then briefly moved into the lead with a leap of 17-11. The final competitors, Moncayo Paola and Solangel Rubio of Mexico, were first and second 18-3 1/4 and 18-2 1/2, respectively.

Dana produced her best efforts in the qualifying rounds, twice leaping 17-7, to finish sixth. “I did OK in the beginning, but in the finals I guess I got tired and I didn’t do very well,” she said.

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Between qualifying attempts, Ashley and Dana had to run to the high jump area and measure out Ashley’s starting mark, then dart back for another long jump. During the finals, Ashley had to leave between attempts and begin qualifying for the high jump.

“I absolutely hate [running back and forth between events], but you get used to it after so many years,” Ashley said after finishing tied for fourth (5-4). “You’re expected to do it because you’re a heptathlete, but I’m dying right now.”

Ashley plans to keep herself busy Saturday as well. She wants to compete in four events at the Orange County Championships during the day, then run the 100 hurdles at the Arcadia Invitational that night.


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