When Ashley Cowan was a young child, she was full of energy.
At 8 months old she was crawling out of her crib. At 2 years old she was crossing monkey bars single-handed. She had a desire to be active.
One day, when the family was at church, other parents marveled at the active child and suggested to Jill Cowan that her daughter try gymnastics.
“We kind of thought, that’s probably the safest place for her to be with all the pads and the mats and if she’s going to do these things let’s do it in a controlled and safe environment, so that’s kind of why we got her into gymnastics in the first place,” Jill said.
Jill’s decision to enroll her daughter in the sport led Ashley, a rising sophomore at Orange High School, on a path to stardom that resulted in a commitment to the University of Missouri on July 24.
“Since it’s been such a long time it was quite a relief to know where I’m going,” Ashley said. “Now I have a set plan and I can go into next season and seasons in the future knowing I’m not only representing my team now at my club team, but I’m also representing Missouri in a way because I’ll be there in a couple years.”
Yet despite all the success and accolades that came Ashley’s way, she didn’t always know she was destined to be a star.
When Ashley enrolled at Faulkner’s Dance & Gymnastics at 5 years old, it was because the gym was a closer drive than other facilities from her home. Soon, however, it was clear that Ashley showed plenty of promise in the sport.
Soon, Ashley moved to Superior Gymnastics, where she went through compulsory training, going through levels four through six with the program.
As Ashley continued to ascend as a gymnast, she moved to Bull City Gymnastics, where she completed levels eight, nine and 10. She has spent the last four years at level 10 and during that time the accolades have started flooding in and she has seen herself improve greatly.
“It’s nice to see the progressive growth through the years and how I get consistently better and scores go up,” Ashley said.
According to Jill Cowan, in addition to winning many state and regional titles, Ashley is a three-time Junior Olympic National qualifier and she won the uneven bars event at the 2018 Junior Olympic Nationals for gymnastics.
Although she received her first Division 1 scholarship in seventh grade, the collegiate offers really started flooding in for Ashley after she finished first at the 2018 Nationals.
“The National title, specifically, has gotten her the attention from the colleges, so we’re just really thankful and appreciative to her coaches, of course at Bull City, Stephen and Amanda Maness,” Jill said.
The added attention led to a scholarship offer from Missouri this past January. As Ashley learned more about the program, she decided it was the best place for her to continue her career as a gymnast. It was also a place that she felt was a great fit for her.
“Whenever I first stepped on campus I knew it was the place for me,” Ashley said. “The coaches have been very helpful and supportive of my decision. I met the recruits this past week and was able to go to camp and experience the coaching experience and spend time with recruits who are going to be my teammates in the future.”
To get to this point, it has not always been easy for Ashley, but the process led to something special.
“There are a lot of years where she sacrificed, and we actually homeschooled her in middle school so that she could train in the mornings,” Jill said. “We’d homeschool her in the afternoon.”
When Ashley got to high school, she enrolled at Orange High School. The enrollment gave her a chance to interact with many other students her age while at school in the afternoon, but still train at her craft in the morning.
With three more years of high school left to go, Ashley has plenty of room left to grow, and an opportunity to add more awards to her decorated resume. But now she will be competing with the knowledge that she is part of the Missouri program, a fact that has her and her mother both excited.
“We are super proud of her and we just can’t wait to watch her be a gymnast at Missouri,” Jill said.