Barrera, who has won three county 5K titles as a Lady Wildcat, signed athletic and academic scholarships with St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C.
The St. Andrews University Knights compete in the Appalachian Athletic Conference as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
She said St. Andrews coaches expressed an interest in her as a 5K and 10K runner.
Barrera said she was contacted because of her running times, which were posted at ga.mile.split.com.
“I got a letter at school and they called me to the office,” she recalled. “[St. Andrews’] coach had contacted me about a potential scholarship.”
She responded and visited the campus in January.
“I love it,” she said. “It’s a small college, a Christian college. I met a few of the students and they’re all very friendly and very nice.”
Matthew Landolt, her coach at Woodland, said her best running times are ahead of her.
“Ashley is a very talented, natural runner,” Landolt said. “However, she really wasn’t challenged a lot at Woodland. In college she’ll see more competition, and I believe that will help take her to the next level as a runner.”
He said she also will make a good student at St. Andrews.
“She’s interested in learning, and she was not afraid to be involved in class discussions,” Landolt said. “She’s a good all-around kid.”
Barrera said she has been running since she was a sixth-grader at Woodland Middle and started running the 5K as a ninth grader, moving up from two-mile races.
“I always ran the 5K at Woodland High,” she said. “I like the longer races. The longer the better.”
Barrera has had a very successful high school running career. She has been named to the all-county team four years, competed at state one year in track and cross country, holds school records in cross country and track and field, was named athlete of the year in 2012 and has been named the team MVP four years.
Barrera’s personal best in the 5K is 19:50.
The 5K runner said she trains about an hour and a half a day five times a week.
Barrera said she owes her involvement to the sport to a friend who encouraged her as a youngster to take up cross country.
After starting long distance running, she said, she grew to love the sport.
“I like pushing myself,” she said. “I feel like when I run I can separate myself from the world around me. I go to a zone when I run and no troubles can follow me. It’s just me and whatever road I’m on.”
She said she probably owes her earliest running skills to her family.
“Mom is a fast walker. Maybe I was training as a runner by keeping up with my mom,” she said, laughing.