Ash sisters blaze to the top of NJ track

Since their freshman year, the dynamic duo of sisters Jewel and Jailya Ash have ruled the track, and they're just getting started.

The Ash sisters compete in the 55-meter hurdles at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, NJ.

Supplied by Jewel Ash

The Ash sisters compete in the 55-meter hurdles at the John Bennett Indoor Athletic Complex in Toms River, NJ.

  High school records are in jeopardy. Yes. Even those of an Olympic gold medalist, are in jeopardy. English Gardner’s indoor 200-meter record has already been broken, and numerous others may follow. The culprits: Jewel and Jailya Ash.

  Senior Jewel Ash and her sister, Junior Jailya Ash, have been running since age five. The early exposure has clearly paid dividends, with both girls ranked among the state’s best in their respective track events. 

  Jewel competes in sprints such as the 100, 200, and 400-meter dash, as well as the 100 and 400-meter hurdles. 

  “My favorite event is the 400 hurdles and I’m going to be specializing in that event in college,” Ash said. 

  During the indoor track season, Jailya runs the 55-meter dash, the 55-meter hurdles, and relays such as the 4×200 meter relay. Her favorite event is the 55-meter dash, and for a good reason. 

  “Last year I was the Meet of Champion winner [best in the state] and I enjoy sprinting instead of hurdling,” she said. 

  Hailing from a school with outstanding athletic programs, Jewel and Jailya are two of the finest. Jewel holds records in the indoor 200 meters and the 400-meter hurdles, where she finished sixth during last spring’s Meet of Champions. With her senior year still ahead of her, Jailya’s accolades already include a MOC (Meet of Champions) crown in the 55-meter dash and three school records. 

  This year, Jailya has her sights set on something even bigger. 

  “I’m looking to break English Gardner’s 100-meter time [11.49],” Jailya said. Numerous sprinting records were set by Gardner, a 2010 Eastern graduate and Olympic gold medalist, only to be shattered years later by the dynamic Ash duo.

  Sprinting head coach Barry Jackson has coached many high schoolers who joined the professional ranks, and considers Jewel and Jailya among some of the best he’s coached. 

  “When you combine their talent and work ethic, it comes out to the success they have had on the track,” Jackson said.

  One thing that stands out to Jackson is the fun nature they display during practice and meets. Both girls are often seen joking with teammates at practice or bantering with runners from different schools before their race.

  “I love their seriousness about track and field, but also their humor and their respect for my wisdom as both a coach and teacher,” said Jackson.  

  Both girls have different reasons as to why they fell in love with running. 

  Jewel loves the feeling of finishing a race and is grateful for her exceptional running abilities. “It’s like a gift to be able to do something so good and that’s what keeps me going every day,” she said.

  On the other hand, Jailya keeps it honest. 

  “I like to be the center of attention. When I’m running, I feel like everybody’s watching me and that makes me want to keep running,” she said. 

  Both girls’ intense passion and dedication to the sport have paid off, with Jewel recently committing to Charleston Southern University to continue her academic and athletic career. She also received offers from the prestigious Air Force Academy and SEC powerhouse Ole Miss. Jailya is still new to the recruiting process, but her top three schools are LSU, Texas A&M, and UConn, all of which are known for their outstanding track and field programs.

  When reflecting back on her high school career, one moment that immediately comes to Jewel’s mind is the adversity she faced during last year’s outdoor season. 

  “I pulled my hamstring, and it was pretty devastating because I had never hurt myself that bad. A month later at States, I earned the Wild Card entry into the Meet of Champs. A lot of doubt was put on top of my name, but I ended up PR’ing [running a personal best] and finishing sixth at the Meet of Champs,” she said.

  A successful journey to prominence has allowed the Ash sisters to rise to the top of the high school ranks, but both girls have their sights set on even bigger accomplishments. 

  Looking to follow in the footsteps of Gardner, the 2024 Olympics are not out of the question for this historic duo.