A grateful Ashland University and Ashland community came together on Tuesday (March 28) afternoon for a parade and rally for AU's 2016-17 winter championship teams and individuals.
Hundreds of Eagle fans gathered to celebrate the 37-0 and NCAA Division II national-champion women's basketball team, the national-runner-up men's indoor track and field team and the wrestling team which finished sixth in the country. Ashland's winter also boasted individual national champions in sophomore Myles Pringle (track, 400-meter dash) and senior Michael Labry (wrestling, 133 pounds).
"We've created something in Ashland," said Ashland Mayor Duane Fishpaw. "Ashland is someplace special, and so is the university."
Said Ashland President Dr. Carlos Campo, "We're going to invent a new word today. We're going to put 'community' and 'team' together, and make it 'communiteam,' what do you say to that? We're a communiteam. We're here because you have helped us get here.
"We're so proud, because these are the kinds of people who are advocating and representing this community, not just to the state, but to the region, to the country and to the world. So that when people say, hey, where did you go to school or where do live or where are you from, when they say, 'Ashland,' it means something. That's the pride that we feel together and that we feel for these young people."
The parade started at Claremont Avenue/King Road near Old Abe in front of the Recreation Center, and proceeded to the Corner Park downtown, located at Claremont and Main Street. At the Corner Park, the rally celebrated Ashland's winter champions.
"You people have been so good to us over the years," said Al King, Ashland Director of Athletics. "It's just been magnificent the way you have supported us over the years, but in particular this year.
"This group is particularly special. They've worked very, very hard, and besides what they've done on the court, on the wrestling mat, in the ring, what they've done is they've been great representatives of the community and the campus, and that is what we always remember."
Each team had the opportunity to speak to the fans gathered in the park.
- Labry, "I just want to start by thanking everyone who came. I think our athletic programs are really lucky here to have the support from everyone here in our community. We're all very fortunate, we thank you for that."
- Track head coach Jud Logan, "There's something special going on in Ashland. I think that you can feel that, it's been going on for a while. I'm in year 23, and I've never considered anywhere else. I love this community, I moved my family here. I've put my roots down here, and this is home to me. And this team, this campus, is home to me."
- Women's basketball head coach Robyn Fralick, "We feel really, really fortunate to be surrounded by excellence. And it was a season to remember, that's for sure. I've said it all season long, and I'm going to say it again – the strength of the team was the team, and you better believe that you're all part of this team. You were unbelievable in helping us bring home the national championship."
Fifty T-shirts and candy were given away. Rally towels, courtesy of Ohio Health, also were passed out.
King also announced that the 2017-18 women's basketball exhibition game will be at NCAA Division I No. 1 Connecticut. More details on the game will be forthcoming.