Qualifying for a national competition is a major achievement in itself.
When you post a top-10 finish at that level, you can expect the accolades to follow.
Such was the case for Abilene High junior Ashton Endsley, who finished sixth at the Nike Cross Nationals on Saturday in Portland, Oregon, to add yet another achievement to what has already been an extraordinary career.
Endsley, a Local Player of the Week column regular during the cross country and track seasons, takes this week's award after posting a time of 17 minutes, 19.6 seconds at Glendoveer Golf Course to finish less than 25 seconds off the first-place time of 16:56.8 posted by Katie Rainsberger of Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"I would say this is the first time for Abilene to have a junior girl who can go and compete in nationals and run with California girls, New York girls and girls from every state," said Arthemon Sindayigaya, Endsley's coach with Cool Runnings Track and Field Club. "And to come home with a medal and be an all-American, it was a very good day for her."
Endsley, one of the top distance runners in Texas, passed six girls in final 400 meters Saturday. She finished just 5.2 seconds out of third place.
"We had to talk at first how she wanted to do it," Sindayigaya said. "She was already No. 1 in Texas, and I told her, 'You need to keep your (top spot) in Texas and then compete with other states because Texas is a (fast) state.' She did that.
"She just ran smart and stayed with the pack at the front, in the top-10, top-12."
Endsley earned her spot in the national meet with a first-place finish at NXN South Region meet last month at The Woodlands. She went to Portland hoping for a top-10 finish but said Saturday her performance was even better than she could have imagined.
Sindayigaya, though, said nothing Endsley does surprises him. Nor will anything she accomplishes in the future.
"I pray to God that one day she will be in the Olympics because she works hard," he said. "She knows what to do and she has the mindset. You can see God gave her a gift and she knows how to keep it. She's a junior and she's already running faster times than a lot of college girls. No one has better times.
"There were a lot of coaches (in Oregon) that want her bad. With the times she has now, she can go on a full scholarship to any school she wants in America without having to pay anything."
THIS WEEK'S TOP FIVE
1. Caleb Elliott, LB, Sr., Wylie — Led an outstanding defensive performance in the Bulldogs' 14-7 state quarterfinal win over Brownwood. Elliott finished with six solo tackles, two tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry, a batted pass and a fumble recovery as Wylie limited the Lions to a single touchdown on 292 yards of offense.
2. Elyssia Esquivel and Jasmine Brooks, guard/post, Jr./Sr., Abilene High — Gave the Lady Eagles a high-low threat during a 4-1 week, including a run to the Ballinger tournament championship.
Esquivel, the Ballinger tournament MVP, averaged 15.6 points from the perimeter, hitting 19 total 3-pointers. And Brooks, an all-tournament selection, controlled the paint with 13.4 points per game.
3. Brittany Brewer, post, Sr., Wylie — Posted averages of 14.2 points, seven rebounds and 2.6 blocks over five games, earning all-tournament honors at the Kids Inc. Tournament of Champions in Canyon in the process.,
4. Austin Johnson, post, Sr., Abilene High — The 6-foot-7 big man continued to shine, reaching double figures in all seven of the Eagles' games last week and topping 20 points four times.
Johnson, who was his team's leading scorer in all but two of its games last week, finished with a 17.9 points-per-game average.
5. Sterling Weilert and Jon Crisp, guard/post, Fr./.Sr., Abilene Christian — These two were instrumental in leading the Panthers to a third-place finish at the Albany Holiday Classic.
Weilert averaged 17.6 points, 3.8 assists, 1.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals over the tournament's five games, while Crisp averaged a team-high 18.2 points and 9.2 rebounds.
5B. Jonathan Doss, guard, Sr., Cooper — It was a rough week for the Cooper boys basketball team, which lost a nondistrict game to San Angelo Central (65-52) and fell to Houston Westbury Christian (65-47) and Fort Worth Trimble Tech (58-53) at the Arlington Classic. But Doss showed tremendous scoring ability in the losses, averaging 19.7 points for the week, including a 32-point effort against Trimble Tech.
OTHER TOP PERFORMERS
Diamond Gary, wing, Sr., Abilene High (Averaged 11.9 points in seven games, including a team-high 26 in an 84-81 loss to Hardin-Jefferson at the Best of the Bay tournament); Chris Henderson, forward, Sr., Wylie (Averaged 14.2 points in five games, including a team-high 23 in a 47-45 loss to Fort Worth Paschal at the Doug McCutchen Memorial Tournament in San Angelo); Spencer Weilert, guard, Fr., ACHS (Averaged 6.6 points, seven assists, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals in five games at the Albany Holiday Classic); Daniece Edwards, forward, So., Cooper (Averaged 9.8 points in six games, including 11.6 points in five games at the Levelland tournament); Tyler Ward, QB, Sr., Wylie (Rushed for 120 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries vs. Brownwood); Riley Hedge, LB, Sr., Wylie (Had four solo tackles, one assisted stop, two tackles for loss and two QB hurries vs. Brownwood); Anthony Guerrero, LB, So., Wylie (Had four solo tackles, one tackle for loss, one QB hurry, one forced fumble and a blocked kick vs. Brownwood).