Powers set the example for Sea Kings

In a couple of weeks, Corona del Mar High junior Ashlee Powers will celebrate her 17th birthday.

Her cross country coach, Bill Sumner, will turn 63 on the same day, Dec. 22.

Powers can call her fellow Capricorn to wish him a happy birthday, but the call itself will be nothing new.

Powers has had Sumner on speed-dial ever since she started running for the Sea Kings.

"I'll call him several times [during] the week," Powers said. "We don't go a day without talking. I always want to know what I can do, because I really want to meet my full potential."

The Daily Pilot Athlete of the Week is on her way for CdM. She just finished a successful cross country season Saturday, earning all-state honors after taking 10th place in Division III at the CIF State Championships in Fresno.

Powers said she had a bit of an off day after crossing the finish line in 18 minutes, 11 seconds. Some outside of the program might say the Sea Kings had an off year after failing to win the state title for the third straight year, but Sumner called the team's fifth-place result "fabulous."

But a little perspective helps. The Sea Kings are young, with just one senior in Devon Hoppe, the team's second finisher Saturday. Considering the team's second runner much of the year, Ellen Naruse, was an emerging freshman who was new to running, CdM had no reason to hang its collective head.

Powers, a team captain, never hung hers. She was the unquestioned No. 1 runner for CdM all year long, and her consistency benefitted the Sea Kings. The fact that she could finish 10th in the state on an off day surprises nobody on the team, least of all Sumner.

"She was it," Sumner said. "She led the team the whole year. You can't ask her to do too much; she leaves practice asking what else she can do. She's been our hardest worker, and it's paid off."

Her sophomore year, she was bothered by shin splints the whole season and missed some meets. She said it was frustrating at times, after a successful freshman season. At state finals, Powers was just sixth on the team.

The Powers who everybody heard about last year was Ashlee's older sister, Melanie, who now runs at Wake Forest. Melanie finished third in the state individually in Division III.

Melanie is the more low-key sister who would actually say "Excuse me" during a race when trying to pass an opponent. Ashlee is the taller Powers who showed her more competitive side early on for the Sea Kings.

"I don't want to say I'm more hard-working," Ashlee Powers said. "She's really quiet about her stuff. When I feel something, I say it right away.

"One time we were at a Mt. SAC race freshman year. Me and Kristen [Rivera], we were told to stay with each other in the first mile, and a girl kept trying to get between us and clipping my feet. I turned around and I said, 'Back off!' "

Powers giggled at the memory, but it's clear that nobody wants to get in her way on the course.

"I don't know," she said. "They say I get down to business."

Powers, who finished fourth at the CIF Southern Section championships in Division III, sets ambitious goals for herself. This year she wanted to go under 18 minutes at Mt. San Antonio College and under 17 minutes on a three-mile course. Powers said she did neither, although she came close at 17:07 during a Pacific Coast League cluster meet.

She shrugs it off. She knew the goals were lofty, but she's always been one to aim high.

"It keeps me working," she said. "It's good because I get to keep those as goals for next year."

Next year the Sea Kings should be improved. Powers said she's also excited for the upcoming track season.

Last year, still bothered by the shin splints, she didn't make it past Pacific Coast League finals. This year, Powers said she's aiming high in the mile.

"I'm hoping to break five [minutes]," she said. "I really think I can do it. Coach says I can do 4:56, but I'm going for a 4:50. It's going to take a lot of work."

It's another lofty goal. Running a 4:50 in the 1,600 meters at last June's state meet would have placed Powers third in the state.

Sumner would love to see his runner get there. He'll make sure to keep answering her calls.

"She gets fired up pretty easy, but somebody's got to light the fire," Sumner said. "She's been kind of a driving force for the team. She is the kid who always gives you 100%."

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Ashlee Powers

Born: Dec. 22, 1993

Hometown: Newport Beach

Height: 5-foot-8

Sport: Cross country

Coach: Bill Sumner

Favorite food: Sushi

Favorite movie: "A Walk to Remember"

Favorite athletic moment: Racing at the Nike Cross Country Nationals last year in Oregon.

Week in review: Powers earned all-state distinction after finishing 10th in Division III at the CIF State Cross Country Championships in Fresno. Powers' time of 18:11 helped the young CdM girls place fifth.

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