Parker's Hartwig doesn't let her mother's records get in the way

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staff, Gazette
Friday, March 1, 2013

— Ashley Hartwig heard the murmurs when she first strolled the halls of Janesville Parker High School.

She read the clauses that followed her name as her basketball career began: "Freshman Ashley Hartwig, the daughter of Jennah Burkholder—the state Player of the Year in 1993…"

A regular visitor to the Field House at the University of Wisconsin while she was still in diapers and a constant viewer of her mother's game film growing up, Hartwig hardly needed the reminders. But she also knew what she had signed up for when she went to play for Tom Klawitter's Vikings.

"My dad and I actually had a lot of talks about that, of, 'You're your own person; you don't have to play,'" Hartwig said, referring to her conversations with father, Brian, a three-sport athlete at Parker in his own right. "I really loved basketball, so I wanted to play. I'm just glad I have a role model like her to look up to."

As Parker opens WIAA basketball tournament play today, Hartwig has left her own mark, and would love to pad her resume with a trip to state.

Welcome to the sport

Ashley wasn't literally born with a basketball in her hand, but it didn't take long for her to get her first look at high-level play.

Jennah led Parker to four straight state tournaments and two state championship berths, including a title in '93 when she was the state's top player. She remains one of the top scorers in Division 1 girls history.

Jennah gave birth to Ashley, her firstborn, after a solid freshman year at UW, coming off the bench to average five points.

After taking a year off while the budding family settled in, Jennah returned to the Badgers, often with Ashley in tow.

Yet her mother didn't force her onto the court until the third grade.

"I said, 'You have to try it,'" said Jennah, now a Vikings assistant coach. "She wanted nothing to do with it. I think she thought playing basketball meant you had to go out there in front of thousands of people."

"I was really worried there was going to be a ton of people, and I would mess up and it would be really embarrassing," Ashley said. "But my mom kind of forced me to play, and after the first practice I loved it. I haven't stopped playing since."

Between school and traveling teams, she played every weekend right up until it was time to make a big high-school decision.

Parker or Lakeside?

The Hartwigs registered Ashley for school at both Parker and Lakeside Lutheran.

The former was closer to home and a school where her parents had been successful. The latter provided a background more close to the parochial schools Hartwig grew up with and, well, it wasn't a school where her parents' success—particularly Jennah's on the basketball court—preceded her.

"The concern was, was everybody going to be like, 'You have to be like your mom,'" Jennah said.

Initially, in fact, Ashley chose Lakeside.

"It's a Lutheran school and I went to Lutheran schools all the way up, and they had a pretty good volleyball program," she said. "Then, I lived two minutes away from Parker. And finally it was just, 'No, I want to play basketball at Parker.'

"I'm glad I stuck with this."

Down the stretch

These days, the only time Ashley lives in the shadow of her mother is if Jennah is casting one under the lights of practice.

Scoring about 15 points per game, the Parker senior has become a focal point for opposing coaches as they attempt to stop—and only three have successfully done so entering the tournament—a Vikings team which spent this season as a staple of the state's top 10 teams.

"It's just been fun to see her have such a good senior year," Jennah said. "She's worked really hard and done a lot of things to be prepared for the season. It's nice when they're actually able to follow through and do well. And it's nice that the team is doing so well because that just makes it a lot of fun for everyone."

Ashley—a mainstay on the All-Big Eight first team—has had success well beyond the court. She's been an all-conference selection in volleyball and a state track and field qualifier.

She hopes she's set an example for her younger siblings—Julia who is 12 and Matthew who is 10.

"I want them to be their own person," Jennah said. "And I want her to be successful, which she has done a great job of."

Ashley's only other everyday reminder of Jennah Burkholder is the 1993 state championship team photo, which is impossible not to notice in Parker's gym.

And for the past few years, it's been the only link to the past that has really seemed to weigh on Ashley's mind.

"Every day in practice I look up to it," she said. "It's kind of my goal.

"Last year, when we lost right away, it was really devastating. This summer, we worked out together every day, played together every weekend, to know that that's not happening to us this year, that we're going to make it through. We're going to push on and we want to get to state."

The senior is undecided where she will go to college. She wants to continue her basketball career and is looking at NCAA Division II schools.

Ashley Hartwig has written her own story. And she hopes a few chapters remain.

Last updated: 8:00 am Monday, April 29, 2013

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