By Jenelyn Russo     11/5/2014

When it comes to high school cross country in Orange County, you’ll usually find Ashley Geisler’s name at the top of the list.

One of the most successful athletes JSerra Catholic High School and the Trinity League have seen recently in the sport, the 17-year-old senior is a two-time Trinity League Champion, has been named All-Trinity League in cross country three times, and received All-CIF and All-State honors for 2013.

After trying several sports in her elementary school years, such as gymnastics, soccer and basketball, a suggestion from her father led to Geisler giving cross country a try as a freshman at JSerra.

Finding almost immediate success, Geisler discovered a love for running and now focuses all of her time and energy on her newfound sport.

“What I love about running is I’m able to clear my mind, especially when things are weighing down on me,” says Geisler. “I can go out and run and forget about everything.”

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As part of one of the top high school running programs in California, Geisler is looking at her final year with the Running Lions as a chance to leave her mark, with goals of winning both the individual and team state championships, something Head Coach Marty Dugard sees as real possibilities for the dedicated runner.

“Ashley has been a captain for three seasons now, and is the heart and soul of the girls’ team,” says Dugard. “Because of her success, she runs with a target on her back, but she is just a joy to coach. I truly hope that in this, our last season working together, that she really pushes herself each day to rise to a new competitive level.”

As Geisler looks ahead to life after high school, the San Clemente resident has a strong interest in studying chemistry and forensic science, but doesn’t shy away from admitting her Olympic aspirations, a goal she says she wouldn’t have if not for her achievements at JSerra.

“Without my success in the sport, I wouldn’t be thinking of wanting to run in the Olympics,” says Geisler, “but now I believe in myself [and think] that I can.”

When Geisler runs, she draws her inspiration from her grandfather, a key figure in her life who passed away just a week before she competed in last year’s State Cross Country Championships, where she placed ninth overall.

It is a topic that still brings out many emotions, and Geisler knows that no matter where her continued ascension in the sport takes her, her grandfather is with her, motivating and pushing her to run to new heights and realize her goals.

“Everything I do is for him now,” says Geisler of her biggest role model, “and I know he’s watching from above.”