Female Athlete of the Week: Funkhouser wins Central’s first swim state title

Ashley Funkhouser

WOODSTOCK — Central sophomore Ashley Funkhouser had plenty of pressure on her Sunday at the Group 2A state swim meet. Pressure to live up to her top time in the 50 freestyle in the preliminaries. Pressure to perform at her best and go for a state title, and of course pressure from her teammates about what song she had chosen to walk out to.

The swimmer with the best time in preliminaries of each event was allowed to pick the music the swimmers would walk out to before the race.

“Everyone on the team wanted to know what song I chose,” Funkhouser said with a laugh. “I told them it’s a surprise. I wanted to surprise them.”

It was certainly worth the wait as Funkhouser chose “Work” by Rihanna, which she said was a favorite of the team. She then went to work in the pool and brought home the school’s first swimming state championship.

Funkhouser won the state title in the 50 free with a time of 25.50. She said in a interview at the school Wednesday that it still hasn’t totally sunk in what she accomplished. She said she has received a lot of congratulations from people at the school and in the community.

“It’s been really cool,” Funkhouser said. “(Tuesday night) I went to my sister’s basketball game and got a whole bunch of congratulations, lots of supportive people. Honestly, I still don’t think it has hit me.”

Funkhouser won a total of four state medals at the state meet, helping her earn The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Feb. 15-21.

Funkhouser finished third in the 100 free (56.57), and was part of two successful relays. She was part of the 200 free relay team, which placed sixth (1:54.27), and the 400 free relay, which finished seventh (4:23.51).

She said that she was very nervous throughout the day, but Central coach Steve Shaffer helped keep her calm.

“Towards the finals with the 50 (free) I was becoming super nervous,” Funkhouser said. ” I just remember Steve coming to me telling me it’s my race, so that really set it for me. Even though I was trying to get first and I was really scared about getting second, he was able to help me focus.”

Funkhouser said that once the 50 free finals started she knew it was going to be close.

“I was in so much pain,” Funkhouser said. “I felt like I couldn’t go any faster, but I knew that it was going to be down to the touch, and that’s what it came down to.”

Funkhouser said soon as the race was over she heard people screaming, but didn’t realize she had won.

“I looked over and I thought I got third and I thought ‘well this is a little disappointing,'” Funkhouser said. “… I looked up at the board to see the times and the places and I saw that I got first, and I was like, “Well I got first.'”

Funkhouser said she could feel the energy of her teammates and that helped her push through to win the state title.

Shaffer said a few weeks ago he started to realize that Funkhouser had the potential to win the state title.

Last year Funkhouser qualified for the Group 3A state meet, and Shaffer said she finished second in a close race in her heat to qualify. He said her competitiveness is part of what sets her apart from others.

“It comes from the hard work and desire within her. … She has that competitiveness and desire to know what it takes to come out ahead,” Shaffer said. “It’s getting to the wall and touching first.”

She broke school records this season in the 200 free, 200 IM, 50 free, 100 fly and 100 free.

Much like the title of the song she chose by Rihanna, Funkhouser is aware there’s more work to be done. She said she would like to win multiple state titles next year.

“I’d like to say that I don’t believe in peaks. I just want to keep improving,” Funkhouser said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com