Golden girl: Cope’s achievements hard to match

The 2008-09 school year just kept getting better as it went along for Ashley Cope.

The FPD junior competed in three different sports during the school year, and she saw success in each. But what started as a good year with a strong showing at the state cross country meet ended with one of the best single years in history for a GISA female athlete.

For her success in basketball, cross country and track and field, Cope is the Telegraph’s Selby Buck Award winner for top female athlete. Since the award was expanded to include both a male and female recipient three years ago, FPD girls have won the award twice, with Cope following Katie Maddox.

Cope opened the school year with a 10th-place finish at the GISA cross country meet. Following in the footsteps of her decorated distance running brother Scott, Cope earned her fourth consecutive top-10 finish at the state meet following two eighth-place finishes and another 10th place.

Cope has been strong in cross country since eighth grade and has excelled in track since then.

Some might have expected Cope’s first full varsity basketball season to bridge her two top sports. But Cope became a catalyst for the Lady Vikings, giving head coach Charley Chase an energizer who would help lead FPD to its second straight GISA Class AAA championship. Cope made a 3-pointer that kickstarted the Lady Vikings late in their quarterfinal win and scored a career-high 25 points in a semifinal victory over Deerfield-Windsor.

“She has everything you want in an athlete,” said April Willingham, FPD’s cross country and track head coach and girls basketball assistant coach. “She will outwork anyone I have ever seen. She has the ability to step up when she has to, and maybe the most important thing is that she loves to compete. We all saw that at a very young age with Ashley. I would go to battle with her any day.”

All of the year’s previous achievements were like an appetizer for Cope’s track and field season.

Cope vaulted a state record 11 feet to win the pole vault — only four boys (public or private schoolers) vaulted higher than Cope at their region or state meet. She won the 100-meter hurdles and finished second in the 300-meter hurdles. She also tied for the high-point award and helped the Lady Vikings win their fifth straight state championship.

“I like all the other sports, but I love the one on one competition of track,” Cope said after being named the All-Middle Georgia Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year. “I am always working hard to get a personal best in whatever event I’m competing in. I know that I have to continue to work hard if I want to keep getting better.”

Cope has won seven individual state championships, winning at least one in each of her four years on the varsity team. She won her second consecutive championships in the 100 hurdles and pole vault. With one more year, Cope has her eyes set on brother Scott’s nine individual state championships, and she could claim family bragging rights with another big track meet next spring.

Five other memorable female performances

Ÿ Macie Couey, John Milledge, senior — The Georgia signee followed in JMA legend M.A. Linch’s footsteps by leading the Trojans to a softball championship.

Ÿ Kendra Grant, Rutland, senior — The Mercer-bound senior helped lead Rutland to its first basketball Final Four.

Ÿ Morgan Johnson and Tori Maddox, FPD, seniors — The athletic duo pushed the Lady Vikings to a Final Four in softball and led the basketball team to a second straight GISA championship. It was Johnson’s eighth GISA team title in high school.

Ÿ Tre’anna Smith, Westside, senior — The rangy post player led a young Seminoles basketball team to the second round of the playoffs a year after they missed the playoffs altogether.

Ÿ Pearline Walker, Baldwin, junior — Walker won her second long jump state championship in her career and contributed on the Bravettes’ Final Four basketball team.