FORT DEFIANCE – Where many high school teenagers find jobs at fast food restaurants serving hamburgers, Ashley Crickenberger can be found growing the animals that provide that food source.
For the Fort Defiance senior, raising steers on her family’s farm is something she has done since the fourth grade.
Just recently, “Thunder” and “Lightning” were her latest two steers shown at the market animal show at the Staunton Union Stock Yards.
One steer, a Charolais cross, weighed 1,355 pounds and the other, a Lim-Flex, weighed 1,525 pounds.
Crickenberger is strongly into raising steers, but she is also extremely adept both athletically and academically at her school. For her successes, she has been selected as Fort’s spring nominee for the City/County Student-Athlete of the Year award, sponsored by Elliott Chevrolet and The News Leader.
“I grew up on a farm,” Crickenberger said of her interest in raising cattle. “My mom was from a dairy farm and my dad from a beef farm. Now we have bits and pieces of both kinds of farms.
“I’ve raised cattle since I was in the fourth grade,” she said. “And I show them at the animal show. I first showed as a second-grader at the Augusta County Fair”
Crickenberger said that the two steers she showed in May were born a year ago in March.
“I would feed them two times a day and I got them used to halters to lead them around,” she said.
Crickenberger said that raising cattle is not an easy job, especially in winter. “It’s not so much fun when it snows,” she said.
Crickenberger said she has gotten a lot of help from her parents, as well as from her 16-year-old brother, Justin.
“He will have two steers next year,” she said. “He has shown as long as I have. It’s a family event. My cousin shows too.”
As it turns out, proceeds from the sales will help pay for her college education.
When not working on the farm, Crickenberger can be found on either the volleyball or tennis courts. She has accumulated two letters in volleyball, and four in tennis for the Indians.
“I enjoy both volleyball and tennis a lot,” she said. “When I started high school, I leaned toward volleyball, but now I enjoy tennis about as well.”
Crickenberger began playing volleyball in the eighth grade. She advanced to the varsity as a junior. She has also played four years of travel team volleyball though the junior Olympics.
Throughout her career, Crickenberger has been a middle hitter, although she has played some on the sides.
“I enjoy the blocking part of volleyball,” she said. “I have that responsibility as a middle hitter. I’m not the strongest hitter so blocking is more enjoyable to me.”
Crickenberger first picked up a tennis racquet as a freshman.
As a ninth-grader, she was part of Fort’s No. 3 doubles team. As a sophomore she was No. 6 on the singles ladder, and No. 4 as both a junior and senior while still playing doubles.
“I like to be consistent,” she said of her court philosophy. “I work on getting the ball in.”
“She’s the epitome of a student-athlete,” Fort girls tennis coach John Edgecomb said. “She has been a mainstay of the tennis team. It’s the second year she has been co-captain. And in my 12 years of coaching, only two girls have been co-captain two years in a row.”
Academically, Crickenberger holds a 4.0 grade point average and ranks 14th in a senior class of 150.
Her toughest classes this year have been dual enrollment calculus and dual enrollment biology, both through Blue Ridge Community College and AP government.
Of her subjects, math is her favorite. “I enjoy numbers,” she said. “I always enjoy going to math class each day. Meanwhile, English is one of her most challenging areas.
At Fort, Crickenberger is involved in four different clubs. She is a member of the FFA organization and the National Honor Society.
She also is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletics and the Key Club.
As a freshman and sophomore, she was a part of the Foreign Language Club.
Outside school, Crickenberger is president of the youth group at the Barren Ridge Church of the Brethren, where she has traveled to Puerto Rico on a mission trip.
“We repainted a church that is used as a community center,” she said. “And we got close to the kids and their families.
As a youngster, she was part of the 4-H program.
In the fall, Crickenberger will take her talents to Bridgewater College, where she will study business administration, with a concentration in accounting. She also plans to manage the Eagles’ volleyball team.
Although she has received some scholarship funds, Crickenberger looks back to raising steers as money in the bank.
“That’s how I’ve raised a big portion of the money that will pay for college,” she said.
Crickenberger certainly has made her mark for the Indians.
“She’s well-rounded, works hard and makes Fort Defiance look good,” Fort athletic director Mark Mace said. “She always has a smile on her face.”
Each public high school from Augusta County, Staunton and Waynesboro selects fall, winter and spring nominees, then selects one finalist. One finalist will also be chosen from nominees made by area private schools.
Friday: Will Riggan, Waynesboro