Tiger of the Week: Track star, law student Ashley Higginson ’11

By Dave Hunter ’72

Most lawyers will unhesitatingly admit that law school is a tough grind – a demanding and competitive journey loaded with long hours of concentrated work alone. Funny, that’s also how most distance runners would describe their plight. Ashley Higginson ’11 finds something soothing and complementary about dividing her attention between both challenging pursuits. “I’m not exactly sure why it is,” Higginson says. “But I am the type of person who performs better if I can give attention to both of these loves of mine at the same time.”

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Ashley Higginson ’11, third from right in green, races through a water jump at the Adidas Grand Prix in May. She represented the United States at the world track and field championships earlier this month. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)

Higginson – an All-America distance runner during her undergraduate days – has been making impressive progression in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, a grueling 7½ lap distance running event complete with water jumps and fence-like wooden barriers that don’t move. Not long after her 2011 graduation from Princeton, she joined the New Jersey-New York Track Club, where she has continued her running career under the watchful eye of Frank Gagliano, one of the nation’s most respected distance coaches. Undaunted by her fourth-place steeplechase finish in last year’s U.S. Olympic Trials – just missing the team for London by slightly over 2 seconds – Higginson has pressed on and elevated her performance.

Shortly after enrolling in Rutgers Law School last fall, Higginson’s racing began to show notable improvement. She knew she was on the right track. She found herself back in the national steeplechase final in June with a chance to avenge her 2012 Olympic Trials disappointment. Under sweltering conditions, Higginson finished second in 9:46.25. Her performance qualified her to compete in the world track and field championships in Moscow.

At the Olympic-like world championships, Higginson acquitted herself well. In the first round, she finished 11th in a season-best 9:45.78, missing a berth in the final by 3 seconds. “I was a little nervous about going out a little too hard. I saw the first heat and thought, ‘we could be a little quicker, but not too much quicker.’ I wanted to keep things even. I think I came up well, but I should have come up better,” Higginson explains. “I think I got a little lost for just a lap or two – my weak point. I was able to take a little breather. But that was a little too much of a breather,” she adds with a laugh. “I was sad to be one of the first ones out. … It was my season best, but I was seriously looking for better than what I showed.”

Higginson’s participation at the world meet was her first time racing on a national team, and there is every reason to believe it will not be her last. “I was so excited to be on the team,” she says. “But then I got here and had a whole new level of wanting. I deserved to be on the team and I made it. And that was the goal. So now I want to take the next step. I now have two years to prepare to be on the next world team. It is very exciting. I am relatively young and I am expected to win more.”

Like many rising second-year law students, Higginson is still working to develop a more precise focus on just exactly how she will use her legal education. “I look forward to a career in politics,” she says. “But right now I am focusing on athletics.”

Dave Hunter ’72, the 1968 recipient of Princeton’s Rosengarten Trophy, is a lawyer and a banker in Akron, Ohio.  He ran his marathon PR of 2:31:40 in the 1983 Boston Marathon.

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