Sisters Lauren, right, and Ashley Tosky embrace after both signed scholarships to run cross country next season for Truett-McConnell, a four-year NAIA program in Cleveland, Ga. Ashley is closing out her sophomore season at Darton, while Lauren is a senior at Lee County.
LEESBURG —When Ashley Tosky was a senior cross country star at Lee County, she had a rival — her little sister, Lauren.
It was a friendly rivalry, mind you, but a rivalry no less.
“I can remember my senior year she beat me in two or three races ... and I was not happy,” Ashely said with a laugh.
Three years later, the Tosky girls are about to go head-to-head again, once again as teammates, but this time at the collegiate level. The duo signed scholarships Friday with four-year NAIA program Truett-McConnell, where they will reunite — only now they’ve agreed to throw the rivalry out the window for the good of the team..
“I feel like we’re coming back together and doing something we always talked about doing, only now it’s really happening,” said Ashley, who is two years older than Lauren. “There’s still going to be competition and I think we’ll be neck and neck, but now I think it’s going to be more about encouraging each other and wanting the best for each other, rather than always trying to beat each other.”
Lauren recently wrapped her senior season with the Lady Trojans — finishing in the Top 5 at the region meet and shaving more than a minute off her time at state from her junior year — while Ashley just completed her sophomore year at Darton, where she helped lead the Lady Cavs to back-to-back Region XVII titles.
“Those are two excellent runners and even better kids. So well-mannered, hard workers in the classroom — you name it,” Lee County cross country coach Tom Matheny said about Lauren and Ashley, who unfortunately had to sign without their mentor in attendance; Matheny is also the wrestling coach and has been in Atlanta since Thursday for the state meet.
“I hated not being able to be there — it just breaks my heart,” Matheny added. “But I sure am proud.”
The Tosky sisters moved from McDonough to Leesburg when Ashley was a senior and Lauren was a sophomore, and they made an impact right away. Darton’s nationally ranked NJCAA program snatched Ashley up after her senior season, while Lauren became one of the leaders for the Lady Trojans as a junior.
“They were both great leaders,” Matheny said.
Ashley didn’t go far when she moved to Albany, and she and Lauren stayed in touch constantly — mostly to compare times and engage in a little friendly trash talk.
“My personal best time was 22:07 in a race I ran at ABAC,” Lauren said. “But since the season ended, I’ve been working hard and now I’m down to 21:24.”
Ashley then chimed in: “My best time at Darton was 21:38 — but I’ve been working hard, too.”
Ashley knew that if she attended a two-year school out of high school, the opportunity could arise for her and Lauren to both sign with a four-year school when Lauren graduated.
“When she started getting offers to run, we really started thinking, ‘This could really happen,’ ” Ashley said. “It all just kind of came together suddenly and we feel blessed to have this chance.”
Lauren said that out of all the offers, she and Ashley felt at home immediately after stepping on Truett-McConnell’s campus, which is located in Cleveland.
“It was just so open, so beautiful. It was like smelling fresh air for the first time,” Lauren said with a laugh. “It’s in the foothills of the Appalachians. It’s a runner’s dream.
“And the coaching staff really made it a point to say he thought we could help bring the team a championship, and that’s what we’re after. Plus, we knew we’d get to do it together.”
Ashley is currently a nursing major at Darton, but will switch to the same major as Lauren when they arrive on campus: biology.
“It’s all falling into place,” Ashley said. “Running together again, having the same major and going to some of the same classes, it was just an opportunity that was too good to turn down.”