When Jordan Hasay got back from a family trip to the London Olympics, she was surprised to turn on her phone and find a message from a friend and former coach.
Jenni Ashcroft was coming to San Luis Obispo.
Hasay, a senior track and field standout at Oregon and arguably the Central Coast’s most decorated high school product ever during a four-year Mission Prep career, was a little jealous not to be returning home herself.
But Hasay has unfinished business in Eugene, and she knew it was a good move for Ashcroft, who accepted a job as an assistant track and field coach at Cal Poly.
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A former All-American women’s pole vaulter at Nevada, Ashcroft, 32, was an assistant cross country coach the past two seasons at Oregon, where she also mentored middle distance runners on the track and 2010 national championship pole vaulter Melissa Gergel.
Ashcroft worked closely with Hasay, a Pac-12 cross country champion and multi-time indoor national track champion.
“When you talk about being part of a team, a lot of different things go into an athlete’s performance as far as family, coaching and support staff,” Hasay said. “I think with Jenni, that’s where it really showed, how there’s so much behind an athlete.
“She was a main part of my success for the past two years kind of in that behind-the-scenes role.
“You don’t realize how much of an impact it makes from watching from the outside, but from the athlete perspective, it’s the difference between being at the top level and not.”
Ashcroft will coach pole vaulters, high jumpers and the multi events at Cal Poly, replacing former assistant Jack Hoyt, who left this summer to become associate head coach at UCLA. Hoyt is also the personal coach of former Mustangs standout and two-time Olympian Sharon Day.
Hoyt was a contender for the Cal Poly track and field director job when Mark Conover was eventually named to replace Terry Crawford in 2009. With designs on being a head coach and his success with Day and others, it was not a surprise Hoyt was able to move up the food chain.
“Jack has done a great job,” Ashcroft said, “and I have a lot of respect for him, but I certainly have a great deal of expectation of being a contributor to the team’s success and certainly would look toward these events to be a big part of that.
“And it’s great to be at a place where there has been success in events in those areas.”
Ashcroft appears to be a casualty of a reported shakeup in the coaching staff at Oregon, where multiple reports suggest that assistant Robert Johnson will be elevated to head coach of the program while current head coach Vin Lannana, also an associate athletic director, focuses on large projects.
Though she lands with the Mustangs, Ashcroft said she received interest from other programs as well.
She couldn’t forget her time competing in meets at Cal Poly when Nevada was a member of the Big West Conference in the early 2000s.
Later, as an assistant coach at Wichita State, she spent spring break in San Luis Obispo when the Shockers were out west to compete.
“It’s the area,” Ashcroft said. “San Luis Obispo is just a place where I knew that I would love to live, so, honestly, that played a huge factor in my decision.”
But Ashcroft’s personal connection with Hasay wasn’t her only tie to the Central Coast.
Conover said she also got a hearty recommendation from Ducks multi-event coach Harry Marra, the personal coach of Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton and a former Atascadero resident.
It was Marra who first told Ashcroft about the opening at Cal Poly.
And her experience in a wide range of events excited Conover. In four years as a volunteer assistant and in her tenure as a full-time coach at Oregon, Ashcroft mainly worked with the pole vaulters and middle-distance runners like Hasay.
In four seasons at Wichita State, she also handled the long jump and triple jump and shared duties working with the multi-event athletes.
“She’s really a coach who has knowledge across the board in a lot of different event areas and just brings a ton of enthusiasm and talent to Cal Poly,” Conover said. “And her coaching record speaks for itself with what some of her student athletes have gone on to achieve.”