Oshkosh North/Lourdes swimmer Ashley Wilson knows what it’s like to bounce back from adversity.
Whether it’s an injury or a bad performance, she doesn’t drown in hardship but instead puts her focus on the next task at hand.
Her unremitting attitude is one of the reasons Wilson is one of the best swimmers not only in the area, but in the entire state.
“Her drive and dedication is amazing, and for her, I hope all of her hard work pays off,” Oshkosh North/Lourdes swimming coach Heidi Wara said. “I envy that because she has more drive and dedication than anyone I know on the team.”
Wilson has been an elite swimmer since she was a kid, but in the past few years has had some bumps in the road.
During her freshman year at Oshkosh North, Wilson had pain in her knees. So she went to the doctor and found out she had Plica Syndrome, a condition where the plica — an extension of the protective synovial capsule of the knee — becomes irritated, enlarged or inflamed.
It required Wilson to have double-knee surgery to have her plica band removed, something she still doesn’t like to talk about.
“Freshman year was rough, there was an extra tendon in my knee that was holding it together, but because I’m a breast stroker, it inflamed,” Wilson said. “My plica, they went in there and removed it. It took a lot of physical therapy and took me out of the pool for a while, which sucked.”
It took about six weeks for Wilson to recover. It wasn’t a fun recovery, but it was necessary.
“I was out six weeks and it was awful,” she said. “When I came back I was hooked up to this machine where I couldn’t push off the wall or couldn’t do foot turns. It was awful, but I was glad I was back in the water because I was going insane.”
But Wilson had another injury later that year. Going for a run, she felt discomfort on her side. When she went to visit a doctor, he informed her she had broken her iliac crest — the curved ridge at the top of the hip bone — and would require physical therapy to recover.
Each time Wilson has battled an injury, though, she’s put in the work to get back in the pool as soon as possible.
“She doesn’t like to talk about (her knee surgery) with me, but I know it’s happened,” Wara said. “But again, because she’s so driven, she doesn’t like to dwell on the past and what has happened before. She likes to focus on the future and her goals.”
Cleared and fully recovered from her injuries, Wilson had a spectacular sophomore season. She qualified for the WIAA Division 1 state meet in two events, finishing 12th in the 200 individual medley (2 minutes, 11.45 seconds) and 13th in the 100 breaststroke (1:07.89).
In her junior year, however, she took a slight step back. Wilson still qualified for state, but this time only in the 200 IM. She qualified for the 24th and final spot while just missing out by two spots in the 100 breast.
“State was really exciting, I was really excited to go back last year, although I was kind of disappointed that I didn’t make my 100 breast,” Wilson said.
Although she was seeded last in the 200 IM, she ended up 18th.
Now a senior, Wilson is hoping to bounce back and return to her sophomore form.
She also has another goal in mind that she’s had her eye on since she was a freshman.
“My goals are getting back in both events, and I really want to take a relay,” Wilson said. “That’s been my goal for all four years.”
The way Wilson has started this season, she is on pace to do great things.
Wilson said her times now compared to years’ past are faster and she opened the season with two wins in her two best events.
“I started off really excited with a win over Fond du Lac, it was nice to start with a win,” Wilson said. “Especially with two wins in the individual races.”
One of Wilson’s biggest goals, other than doing well at state, is to break her idol Rachel Revolinski’s records. Revolinski, who graduated from Oshkosh North when Wilson was an eighth grader, holds the top spots in the 200 IM and 100 breast.
Wilson said shes about two seconds behind her in each event.
“I want to break two of Rachel’s records up there,” Wilson said. “She was my role model and I thought it would be really cool to beat her.”
It came as no surprise to anyone that Wilson turned out to be a star swimmer. She she grew up with the sport, and both her parents were swimming coaches in Ripon.
“I have been swimming as long as I can remember, I think I officially joined the team when I was 7, but growing up my dad was a swim coach and I was always around the pool,” she said. “My whole family is involved with swimming so that’s how I got involved.”
If there is one thing that Wilson is better at that swimming, it’s her leadership. She was voted captain by her peers each of the last two years.
“She is a great leader, a great swimmer,” Wara said. “But she’s someone that everyone on the team looks up to, she has that great leadership.”
After her prep career is wrapped up, Wilson said she’d like to continue to swim in college.
She said a few of her top options include St. Cloud State University (Minn.), Minnesota State University, Mankato, along with Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference schools UW-La Crosse and UW-Whitewater. She’s still very much undecided at this point.
“I definitely want to swim in college, I’m really excited for college swimming,” Wilson said. “A change of scenery, change of pace and getting out of this normal routine. I think it will be good for me. I struggled a bit time wise in these past years and I think a change in everything will be good.”
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661; firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @Wolfa07