Runner sets pace with perseverance

Dave Weatherwax/The Herald
Southridge High School senior Ashlyn Bornefeld, third from left, was congratulated by family friend Jeff Bounds of Huntingburg, far left, following the senior awards ceremony at the school Wednesday where she received the Spirit of Southridge award. Ashlyn has dealt with complications from her cerebral palsy with surgeries and Botox injections  and was able to join the Raider cross country team. Flanking Ashlyn were her stepfather, Brad Eble, and her mother, Aimee Eble.

Herald Staff Writer

HUNTINGBURG — According to her doctors, Ashlyn Bornefeld shouldn’t have been able to walk across the auditorium and up the stairs to accept her Spirit of Southridge award Wednesday morning, but she has never been one to let others tell her what she cannot do.

With a smile on her face and only a bit of a limp to slow her, the Southridge High School senior mounted the stage, shook hands with athletic director Brett Bardwell and took hold of the little black plaque that showed that her years of determination had paid off.

Ashlyn, 18, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of 8 months and doctors told her mother, Aimee Eble, that it was possible she would never be able to walk.

“At that time, they basically told us there was just no way of knowing where she could go with cerebral palsy because it is damage in the brain,” Eble said.

By the time she was 3, however, Ashlyn had learned to get around with a walker, but her mobility was constantly interrupted by surgeries to correct her muscles. For a few years, Ashlyn could walk only on her tiptoes, so at the age of 5, she had her Achilles tendon detached and moved forward in her foot, leaving her in a cast for several weeks. She spent countless nights sleeping in an immobilizer with her legs kept completely straight to stretch the muscles. She has had Botox injections into her legs dozens of times to relax the muscles further.

“We’ve gone through a lot with the surgeries, but she’s just really determined and we’ve always just kind of let her do whatever she wanted to do and see what happens,” Eble said.  

Ashlyn’s road to the spirit award, which is given to students who overcome adversity, began when she was in elementary school watching Southridge Middle School cross country meets.

“I went to see my brother Christian run,” Ashlyn said. “I saw Kacie running.” Kacie Klem was a star runner for the school corporation who set several high school records during her career. Her speed and endurance dazzled the young Ashlyn, and one day Christian introduced the two girls. Ashlyn remembered being star-struck at their first meeting, and she soon joined the cross country team herself.

When Ashlyn was a fifth-grader at Huntingburg Elementary School and became tired during a race, Klem doubled back on the course to run beside her, inspiring Ashlyn to make it to the finish line. The family has never forgotten the help Klem gave to her.

In high school, Ashlyn became the student manager for the softball team and joined the cross country team. She knew she wouldn’t be a star runner, but to her, winning wasn’t everything.

“(I ran) mostly to be involved in school and be with crazy people,” Ashlyn said. Spending her four years on the junior varsity squad was no big deal after all she had overcome.

“Varsity runners are too fast,” she said, “But I’m OK with that.”

Eble, her husband, Brad, Ashlyn’s grandmother Jacki Foley and godmother, Shae Kokomoor, all attended the Wednesday morning senior awards ceremony to see Ashlyn accept her plaque from Bardwell, who introduced her as “a very special young lady.” Each member of her family has been instrumental in raising Ashlyn into a woman with perseverance, Eble said.

“I can’t take credit for all of it. I always say it takes a village to raise a child, and she’s got a pretty large family,” Eble said. “I’m proud. I never doubted her.”

Ashlyn also was given a plaque for her dedicated participation in cross country and softball, though she was not present at that athletic awards ceremony. She is excited to graduate from high school Friday, and though she does not have any immediate plans for her future, she says she would like to go to college to study music.

For now, the whole family is grateful for the valuable time Ashlyn was able to spend in high school sports.

“They’re very much a family, the cross country team. They’re very close to each other,” Eble said. “The girls team would always go back and find Ashlyn and cheer her on and just kind of inspire her to keep going. Everybody was involved.”

Contact Claire Moorman at

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