GRANGER TWP. — Highland senior Ashley Mennenga signed a letter of intent with the University of Cincinnati to continue her academic and swimming careers.
Countless universities, including Ohio State and Penn State, wanted the three-time All-Gazette star. Mennenga knew Cincinnati was the pick all along.
“Cincy was a frontrunner right away,” Mennenga said. “I felt an immediate connection with the coaches and with the team. I spent a lot of time with them. I think I visited them three times.
“It was pretty much them from the beginning. I looked at some other schools, but Cincinnati was my fit, and it’s great that I found them.”
What she saw in the Bearcats was more than just a close bond. It was a budding coach ready to take the standout to the next level.
In her fourth season with the Bearcats as head coach and seventh overall, Mandy Commons-DiSalle has a penchant for success.
Under Commons-DiSalle’s tutelage, Jacqueline Keire was a three-time All-American, 12-time NCAA qualifier, three-time American Athletic Conference Most Outstanding Swimmer and 13-time conference champ. Keire later went on to represent Team Canada in the World University Games this summer.
She’s not the only success story for Cincinnati, as Commons-DiSalle mentored the team to 11 school records two seasons ago as well as five individual conference titles.
“I felt an immediate connection with their team and with their coaches,” Mennenga said. “I feel like their coaching staff is not only invested in not only their swimmers’ swimming abilities, but in their kids’ life and how they’re setting themselves up in the future.
“You hear this from athletes all the time, but I really feel like their team is a family. They love spending time together and really love getting after it in the pool. I can’t wait to be in that amazing environment to train. … Coach Mandy knows what she’s doing. She works with her swimmers and will bond with them. It’s amazing that I can go in and have an opportunity like that.”
While shoulder surgery will cut short her senior year with the Hornets, Mennenga’s accomplishments can’t be denied.
The Division I state runner-up in the 100-yard backstroke also finished seventh in the 100 butterfly. Mennenga holds the Medina County record in the 100 fly (55.59) and is the school record-holder in everything but the 100 breaststroke and 100 freestyle.
The four-time All-Ohioan is ready for the next step.
“I feel like I have the ability to grow with them,” Mennenga said. “I feel like I’m able to adapt to new situations and be able to hopefully thrive. I love to work and I love new opportunities and challenges. I think it’s just a good fit.”
It’s more than just a fit in the pool, as Cincinnati has a fantastic physical therapy program for Mennenga, who carries a 4.29 grade-point average.
Contact Brad Bournival at email@example.com.