Ashley Hilyer Named to AHSAA Leadership Summit



Each year, the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) names 16 student-athletes to the organization’s student leadership group. The selection process requires letters of recommendation from coaches, teachers and administration to go along with a detailed application process. Until the year 2022, Opelika High School had never been represented at the annual leadership summit.

Three-sport athlete Ashley Hilyer changed that narrative for Bulldog athletics.

A competitor for the Dogs in soccer, golf and flag football, Hilyer was named to the 2022 summit as one of just two juniors for the district and will begin her two-year commitment as a member this spring.

She has eyed a selection to the team since she joined the athletics program in eighth grade.

“It’s a program I heard about when I was in eighth and ninth grade,” Hilyer said. “I remember hearing about it and I was like ‘this is something I want to do’ so being accepted, I was really excited to hear about it.”

To Hilyer, being a leader is more than being an exceptional athlete.

“Being a leader, you don’t have to be the best person on the field,” Hilyer said. “It’s more of a mentality; setting an example, being better than you were yesterday and encouraging your teammates around you.”

While attending the summit, the standout junior hopes to further develop her skills and learn how to pass them along to the rest of her classmates.

“I want to learn more leadership skills and add on to what I already know,” Hilyer said. “Being able to meet other like-minded individuals and then bringing these skills back to my teammates, not just within my sport but everyone within the school regardless.”

Although excited to attend the summit, Hilyer is humbled to become the first Bulldog to receive acceptance to the program.

“It’s a really big honor,” Hilyer said. “It’s a huge blessing being the first one from Opelika high school.”

Opelika’s head women’s soccer coach — Jackyn Button — believes that Hilyer is the perfect representation of Opelika.

“I think Ashley is a great all-around student-athlete,” Button said. “Great in the classroom, great leader on the field and off the field. I think she’s really well-rounded.”

After having the opportunity to know the standout junior from a young age, Button has grown to appreciate her leadership and work ethic.

“She joined the program as an eighth grader,” Button said. “So I got to know her a little bit younger and she is just one that will always go in and work hard.”

According to her head coach, Hilyer is the type of athlete who gives her all, regardless of what’s thrown at her.

“Even if she’s like ‘coach, I don’t know maybe what I’m doing at this position,’ she’s going to keep running hard and working hard,” Button said. “Even in drills and practice. That’s one thing we’ve had to work on is working hard in practice. She’s someone who always gives 110 percent and she’s pushing the other girls.”

The newly named member of the leadership group has a positive impact on those around her.

“The other girls respect her because she’s somebody you can trust to do the right thing,” Button said. “Even if I’m not here, she’s going to be putting her best foot forward and doing the right thing. I think the other girls see that.”

Button is aware of how much work went into Hilyer’s earning of the honors and believes it has earned her even more respect from her teammates.

“It’s a big deal,” Button said. “Even the girls are like ‘oh we saw you on social media’ and that’s huge too for the recognition. That’s pretty cool, she’s on our team and she’s being recognized and representing us at the state level.”

Button hopes that her junior’s achievements will encourage other athletes to follow suit.

“I think that’s pretty cool for the girls to see,” Button said. “Especially for the younger ones to think about applying for this as well and to be the best student-athlete they can.”

Although Hilyer has just three semesters remaining in her high school athletic career, it is difficult to imagine a world in which her presence does not continue to make those around her better beyond the realm of sports.


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