Kathleen Ash is anything but a normal athlete. She may resemble your average women’s hockey player, but there is something a little different: she has a resting heart rate of 38 beats per minute. The average person’s’ resting heart rate is somewhere between 60-100 BPM.
“Essentially they call it the athletic heart and that I am in too good of shape,” Ash said.
She works out every day by herself on top of attending practices. This can total up to three training sessions a day. She truly enjoys working out and working out often. This is why her heart rate is so low because she is, literally, in such good shape. Having an athletic heart just worked out that way. It is an asset to her when she plays a sport that has been in her family for generations: hockey.
Hockey has been in her blood since she was born. Her father, grandfather and brother all played hockey. Naturally, Ash was ready to lace up and skate before she could even walk. At the age of six she began playing hockey with boys teams until she was fourteen years old. She was a part of the Arvada Hockey Association before moving on to play Colorado Select. Even though she participated in track and lacrosse in high school, hockey was always priority number one. She came to CU her sophomore year and has been with the Buffs team since.
When asked about how being a student-athlete affects grades, Ash took an enlightened approach.
“I actually think hockey, or being a part of something, helps with my grades because I am held accountable to get my schoolwork done,” she said. “We have to have a certain GPA to be eligible but I don’t have a lot of time to get homework done, so in the time that I do have I am very productive”.
During her sophomore year when she was out with an injury, she received the worst grades of her college career. Student athletes often have a tough time balancing school and athletics, but in Ash’s case, it helps her succeed. She thrives off working in a system with goals and deadlines, making her a more successful athlete and student.
When she is not studying, Ash is in the forward position on the rink with the women’s club hockey team. As an experienced fifth-year senior, she also sometimes plays defense. The squad this year features mostly seniors and freshman, a potentially dangerous mix, because young players are adjusting to the system and gaining more experience playing at CU. Still, it’s nice to know that there will be a strong future for the team with so many young players.
Before the Buffs look too far in the future, they must focus on the season at hand first. After dropping the first two home games of the season to Minot State University, the Buffaloes went on to rattle off seven wins in a row. The streak included a 10-0 beat down of University of Denver and a 11-0 thrashing of Colorado State University.
When asked what went wrong in those first two games, Ash said, “I definitely think we were under prepared, in the sense of our systems, people are not on the same page”.
This can credit to a number of factors but Ash noted that CU’s zamboni broke down. They had to do dryland practices, which meant they lost out on some very valuable ice time, which they clearly needed. The Buffs have been perfect since these first couple games and now they carry a solid 7-2 record and looking to play better.
While Ash is hoping for a strong winning season with the Buffs, she has her eyes set on another goal as well. In her junior year she traveled to Almaty, Kazakhstan to participate in the World University Games. Under coach Shelley Looney, the team went 2-2, finishing in third place.
Surely, the ladies have their eyes set on first prize this year, with games in Russia. Ash wants nothing more than to make the team again, saying, “that’s a big personal goal for me”.
Since Ash is playing at this high level of athletics, on both CU and possibly a women’s national team, it begs the question, is it safe for her heart?
“Fun fact, the lowest heart rate they had seen was 39 from a Denver Nuggets player”, Ash said, making Ash’s the lowest he has ever seen. Her low heart rate does affect how she feels sometimes, but rarely when she is working out.
“When you have that low of a heart rate, sometimes it can mean that you are a little bit healthier or sometimes it can mean your blood is flowing a little bit faster, it’s not restricted,” said Jeff Morse, a trainer at CU. But he knows there are some dangers too.
“Then you worry about is her heart pumping enough, is she going to pass out?” Morse said. “Is she going to get light headed? And you know, me being her athletic trainer, I worry about her maybe passing out on the ice.”
These are valid concerns, but Morse talked with Kathleen about taking care of herself off the ice and how that will translate to being healthy on the ice.
“She’s an awesome, awesome, athlete, she’s probably one of the better athletes we have ever had here,” Morse said.
With an “athletic heart” and a long history of playing hockey, there should be no reason why Kathleen can’t reach her goal of playing in the World University Games this year. For the Buffs squad, it’s still too early in the season to really tell how it is going to go, but winning three games this past weekend puts Colorado in a great position in the standings.
Contact CUI Sports Writer Max Troderman at firstname.lastname@example.org.