Toledo High School Senior Ashton Fraser (pictured) has been the consistent leader on this year's highly ranked Toledo Cross Country team.
Ashton Fraser is the superstar senior athlete at Toledo High School that nobody outside of the building knows much about. He doesn't carry the rock like Taylor Hicks, or shoot three pointers like Brent Wood, but he has been an effective leader on Toledo's Cross Country team, who won the Central League title this week.
Fraser has been consistently the highest-placing runner for Toledo on a team of seven. He finished second just ahead of teammate and all-around athlete Forrest Wallace in a field of 56 runners on Thursday, as the Indian runners dominated the rest of the Central 2B League.
This week, the team will take on tougher competition in the District IV Cross Country Championships Saturday at Rainier High School. The team plans on another return trip to the state meet in Pasco a week later.
Toledo placed fourth in the state in 1999. Last year they were 15th at the 1A level and 11th the previous year. At the 1B/2B level, Toledo is currently ranked fourth in the state and second among public schools in a hypothetical meet on Athletic.net.
Fraser knows Cross Country is a bit of a mystery to most and will freely admit it is not a spectator sport, but it is a team sport.
"Cross isn't all about running," he explains. "Yes, we do core workouts and abdominal workouts, but it's just like football, soccer, volleyball in that we are a team and we need each other even more than most of us realize."
Cross Country is a unique sport in terms of preparation and toughness.
"One of the major purposes of recreational [and competitive] running is to find your threshold of pain and push it, as with yoga," lectures Fraser. "Its purpose is to become a stronger person, mentally, physically and emotionally. This is why my team is so important to me. It's comforting to know that there are roughly sixteen other people to go through all the rigor and pain with you."
Fraser moved to Toledo with his family from New York early in his high school career, so is relatively new to the Toledo community. He is not without fans, however.
"My biggest fans might be my mother and my girlfriend," says Fraser. "I would have to say our coaches are our biggest fans," referring to long-time Toledo running mentors Brian Layton and Mike Christianson.
"Our coaches and my dad have taught me a lot about running," said Fraser. "I used to run and work out with my dad. It made me mentally tough enough to run harder all the time. He is in the Air Force and I'm between that (enlisting) and going to college for pretty much all of the physical sciences."
"My dream right now is to run in college then be a theoretical/experimental physicist," grins Fraser.
Fraser participates in two related sports a year and makes no secret that he might enjoy running at the college level.
"As a team, I want to go to state and [stand on the] podium. We have a great shot at doing so," he says. "The team still has great dynamics, great senses of humor, friendliness etc."
Those sound like ingredients that only a great cross country team has to have and as a leader, Fraser is right in the thick of it.