By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
- It’s a little bit funny that Ashlee Kidd is less than three weeks from induction into the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame given that while in high school in St. Petersburg, Fla., she had no more idea about Tech than a woman on the moon.
“I had never even heard of Georgia Tech until I got my recruiting letter,” Kidd said Sunday. “I just thought I’d go to Florida State, or Miami or the University of Florida. My Mom said it was a good school. I went on a recruiting visit, and absolutely loved it.”
Tech loves Kidd back, as she came to rank as one of the school’s all-time best student-athletes from 2003-07 -- especially measuring results vs. expectation.
A fine athlete at St. Petersburg High School, Kidd was a three-time conference, region and district champion in the 200 and 400 meters, yet there were few if any outward signs that she might be a game-changer. She ranked fifth in her state among prep tracksters in the 400 meters and ninth in the 200 meters.
Tech head coach Alan Drosky and his staff saw something, but not what the Jackets got. To suggest that he envisioned landing an 11-time ACC indoor and outdoor champion who also became a 16-time All-ACC performer and a seven-time All-American ... uh, no.
That wasn’t necessarily planned.
When Kidd was a senior, Drosky told Ramblinwreck.com that he and his coaching staff believed that she would add depth to the roster, and perhaps develop into a scorer as an upperclasswoman.
"But early in her career with us, it was apparent she would do a whole lot more than add depth,” Drosky said. “In fact, she would develop into one of our most decorated student-athletes in women's track and field history.
“Not only talented, she is an outstanding competitor and has been at her best when it counted the most.”
Kidd wasted no time getting busy.
With the help of coaches, chiefly assistants Nat Page and Andria King – a former Tech track standout who had joined the staff and went into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2013 – Kidd blossomed quickly as a freshman.
She won the ACC indoor title in the 400, ACC outdoor titles in the 200 and 400 meters, and finished second in the 400 at the NCAA East Region Championships in 51.76 seconds—considerably faster than her ACC-winning time of 53.50.
She also ran the second leg of the Tech 4x100 meter relay team that finished third in the NCAA Region meet with a school-record time of 44.00. Earlier in the season, she was on a 4x200 relay team that set a school record of 1:34.80 en route to her being selected ACC Rookie of the Year indoors and outdoors.
Majoring in business management, Kidd said from Smyrna -- where she lives while working as a scheduling analyst for Racetrac Petroleum after previously working in Human Resources with the company -- that she treasures her time on The Flats.
“When I made that [recruiting] visit, I just remember all the coaches and teammates welcoming me like I was family; I felt like I was part of the team,” she recalled. “My mom went on the visit, too, and she said, ‘if you don’t go, I’ll go.’
“I would say just spending time with my teammates was the best. In most situations, we went to the same meets, and it was just a family ... kind of like brothers and sisters with study halls and practices and everything.”
Kidd began running track when she was “about 9,” because her elementary school physical education teacher suggested to her and her parents that she ought to consider running for his AAU track team, “because,” she said, “I was beating all the boys.”
That worked out well.
She was part of Tech’s ACC championship outdoor 4x100 meter relay team her sophomore year, and as a junior she won indoor conference titles in the 200 and 400 and then outdoors on the 4x100 relay team.
Her senior year was spectacular, as she captured titles in the indoor 200 and 400 and the outdoor 4x100 relay team and 400 meters.
“I never thought I’d run the times that I did,” she said. “It was a lot of hard work, and I had a lot of coaches help me.”
After graduating in 2007, Kidd ran professionally until 2011, when a nagging Achilles tendon injury required surgery. In that time, she trained at Tech, chiefly under the tutelage of Page. For the first year of pro track, that was just about all that she did.
From 2008 onward, she balanced work with athletics before hanging up her spikes.
“I had an ongoing injury that had been bothering me for years, and I had to have surgery, wear a boot, and I just said, ‘OK; I think I’m done,” she said. “Working, training, getting treatment. It was enough.
“My [left] Achilles tendon had tears and was very painful every time I ran, but I kept running,” he said. “I had a whole bunch of scar tissue from all those tears.”
Kidd has volunteered time to work with the Tech student-athletes for several seasons, although she said her time has become especially tight with job changes, and she anticipates catching a couple meets this season. She keeps up with the Jackets, attending two or three football and basketball games a year, and she said, “I read up on them,” as well.
She can hardly wait to be back on the Flats for her Hall of Fame induction on Sept. 22, and for a halftime ceremony at the football’s Sept. 23 game against Pitt, where golfer Roberto Castro, baseball player Matt Wieters, tennis player Roger Anderson, football player Durant Brooks and basketball player will join her.
“I was excited [to get the call],” she said. “It’s such an honor to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.”