As a student-athlete, Ashley Hall athletic trainer Julia Lener never wanted to see her high school trainer. “I was that stubborn athlete who didn’t want to go into the training room,” Lener says with a laugh. “When I got hurt, I always tried to avoid it as much as possible.”
But when she got tendonitis in her rotator cuff playing softball her senior year, things changed. “I had a trainer who took the initiative, and it made all the difference,” she says. “He took me out which was mentally really tough on me, but the relationship I ended up building with him was so important to me at that period of time in my life. Honestly, that’s what pushed me to athletic training. I knew how much he cared about me, and I wanted to give that to someone else.”
In August 2023, Lener joined Ashley Hall as the School’s first-ever full-time athletic trainer. “As our athletic trainer, Julia will play a vital role in supporting our athletes and coaches,” says Assistant Athletic Director Christian Alcantara. “She will work closely with the coaching staff to develop comprehensive training and conditioning programs, provide immediate medical attention during practices and competitions, and assist in the rehabilitation of injured athletes.”
As she gets settled in her new role, we sat down with Lener to hear more about her background, where her focus is as she works with athletes, and why she chose to join the Ashley Hall community.
Last year, Lener worked with the University of Alabama’s men’s and women’s tennis teams where she earned her master’s degree in health studies. “Working in tennis last year at the collegiate level, we were very focused on preventative and functional assessment,” Lener says. “That’s what I strive to do here because I feel like if we have that in place, we’ll see great results when it comes to decreasing numbers of injuries.”
Lener also stresses the importance of working with students before a season starts, especially when it comes to supporting young athletes starting a new sport. “A lot of training is knowing what to expect,” Lener says. “It’s about giving them guidance of what a sport entails strength wise, how you should train, etc. Once we inform them of how the sport works, it’ll not just educate them on how to play the sport itself, but build a sense of confidence, too.”
“People stereotype athletic trainers as the people that take you out of the game,” Lener says. “So nobody ever wants to come to us, but taking an athlete out of competition is never our goal whatsoever. So that’s why one of my goals is to build relationships. Trust is everything.”
One way Lener is building those relationships already is her open door policy that encourages athletes to come see her even if they are not injured. “I’m not here to make changes in your life unless you want to make them,” Lener says. “I’m here to give you advice and support, so you don’t have to come to me if you just have an injury. You can come to me for nutritional advice, hydration advice, equipment training, things like that. It’s about having the door open.”
Supporting students through injuries
While playing softball at Southern Connecticut State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in athletic training, Lener was misdiagnosed with an injury for about a year. The injury finally led to surgery and rehab. “I felt very alone when I was in rehab,” she says. “I just wasn’t getting the support I needed, and you’re at a very vulnerable point in your life.”
Knowing firsthand how important a strong support system is for athletes working through injuries, Lener chose Ashley Hall. “Something that drew me to Ashley Hall was the athletics staff,” she says. “They are just truly incredible, and feeling confident that I have a support system is exactly how I want our athletes to feel. I want them to know I’m gonna guide you through any injury, or if you’re not comfortable with me guiding you, we’re gonna find somebody to help you through this, whether that’s PT or an outside referral. That’s my biggest thing.”
Ashley Hall is pleased to announce that three members of the Class of 2023 will be continuing their sport at Division Three universities next year. These student-athletes signed their letters of intent during a ceremony on February 1, 2023, with excitement in front of family and friends.
Ashley Hall students continuing their sport in college include: Ailish Ward ’23 who will run cross country at Tufts University; Ellerbe Mendez ’23 who will play lacrosse at Swarthmore College; and Mary Ella Predergast ’23 who will play tennis at Connecticut College.
“Ashley Hall has a strong tradition of having our student athletes continue on at the collegiate level,” says Athletic Director Franny Slay ’80. “It’s really exciting to see these three reach their goals that they’ve worked so hard for.”
In December, Ward was also recognized by the Post and Courier as the 2022 All-Lowcountry Runner of the Year.
At Ashley Hall, athletics have always been more than just a game. Student athletes become both team and campus leaders, as well as part of a legacy left by a long line of women in sports who have been competing for the School for over a century. To support its athletes on and off the field, this fall Panther Athletics launched a new year-round strength and conditioning program aimed to not only change the way they play, but live.
“Dynamic athletes require dynamic programming,” says Assistant Athletic Director Christian Alcantara. “Now our athletes will be able to work year round to improve their game. This will not only help prevent injuries, build endurance and stamina, but it will also give them more knowledge on how to care for themselves day in and day out.”
Led by Coach Beatrice Puiu, Ashley Hall’s strength and conditioning program offers off-season and pre-season training programs, as well as in-season sessions that compliment regular practice schedules. Puiu will also be at the school during set hours of the week so anyone who is free can go see her for a workout.
With the goal of supporting all Ashley Hall sports teams, Puiu designed the program in a way that allows her to cover all her athletes needs, plus sports-specific needs separately. “The program covers the entire body,” Puiu explains. “The main goal is for each athlete to get stronger, more powerful, and more explosive. Strength training protects your joints from injuries, maintains muscle tissue, and improves overall life quality.”
As strength and conditioning coach, Puiu understands firsthand the science behind the female athlete’s body. A Romanian native, she has competed in international and national Track and Field competitions as well as European Championships and the 2018 Winter Olympics. Over the past 10 years, she’s been awarded 15 national titles with her strongest events in hurdles, high jump, and shot put.
“Now it’s my turn to educate Ashley Hall student athletes,” Puiu says. “My job is to work with anyone who shows up to a training session and share the best habits for the best version of themselves. In my perfect world, this program would be required for all girls. Even if they are not interested in sports, the human body was created to move. The skeleton needs strong, lean muscles. We can work and prevent abnormal positioning of the spine, prevent muscle fatigue, decrease the risk of back pain, increase energy, and increase confidence – correcting your posture can impact the way you feel about yourself!”
Puiu first joined Ashley Hall in 2017 as assistant coach of Panthers Track and Field, and returned to coach the team last year. As both Track and Field coach and strength and conditioning coach, she understands how the new program will support the entire athletics department. “It will take a lot off the coach’s shoulders, explains Puiu. “It helps so they don’t have to spend more time in the weight room and can use that time for the game plan.”
While supporting the coaching staff and giving Ashley Hall athletes an elite advantage through strength training is exciting, that’s only part of the big picture for Coach Bea, as her athletes call her. “Believing, encouraging, educating, and leading our girls into the future is the most exciting thing for me,” she says. It’s lifelong learning and development. We will be surrounded by strong young ladies inside and outside. Strong is beautiful!”
Ashley Hall is thrilled to announce that it will host youth sports for the first time in the School’s history for the 2022-23 school year. The new CUBS program will expand the Athletic Department’s sports offerings to students in grades pre-kindergarten through fourth who would like to participate in practices after school, and its designed to teach fundamental skills and PQV spirit to future Panther athletes.
“It’s so important for kids to explore athletics at a young age,” says Ashley Hall Assistant Athletic Director Christian Alcantara. “I can think of no better way than to provide them the option to try new sports in a fun, supportive environment that mirrors our EEC and Lower School programs.”
The program will kick off with volleyball, tennis, and soccer. The spring semester will offer basketball, lacrosse, and golf. Each semester will offer two 6-week sessions, and programming will include one lesson each week organized by grade level. All practices will start 15 minutes after school dismissal and take place on Ashley Hall’s campus. Program fees vary based on the sport.
“Our coaches coming in are all professionals and everything for our Panther CUBS will be held on campus,” Alcantara says. “The ease of having the program right there for our students will hopefully also make it easier for our parents. It’s going to be a wonderful extension of our School and mission.”
The exciting addition of youth sports at Ashley Hall comes on the heels of a 2021-22 school year that saw State Championship wins, Johns Island Sports Complex facility upgrades, and Nike brand partnership news. “We’ve been busy elevating Ashley Hall’s athletic program offerings to the next level,” Alcantara says. “And the momentum continues.”
Stay tuned for how and when to register for the Spring Ashley Hall CUBS Program
The Ashley Hall Equestrian program has been in full “gallop” this spring with two big events showcasing the team and individual rider’s talent and PQV spirit.
South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) Equestrian Championships
Under the leadership of coach Cyndi Simpson, the Ashley Hall Equestrian Team placed 6th overall at the SCISA Equestrian Championships held April 2. PQV to the following riders:
Reserve Champion in Beginner Walk Trot Canter | Elli Grek ’29
Reserve Champion in Open Flat & 6th Place in Open over Fences | Stuart Rumsey ’23
4th Place in Beginner Walk Trot | Isabella Smith ’29
7th Place in Beginner Walk Trot Canter | Emme Miller ’28
6th Place in Intermediate Over Fences & 4th Place in Intermediate Flat | Madison Bernard’23
7th Place in Novice Flat & Novice Over Fences | Addie Hoffman ’28
2022 Ashley Hall Horse Show
March 18-20, the annual Ashley Hall Horse Show returned to Mullet Hall Equestrian Center for a beautiful, but chilly weekend of competition and camaraderie. This event is open to riders outside of Ashley Hall including alumnae who return to compete for the coveted Emily Ravenel Farrow ‘33 Alumnae Cup.
Congratulations to all of our winners and participants listed below:
McBee House Cup
1st Place | Kaitlyn Noone ’23
2nd Place | Ella Hudson ’25
3rd Place | Pierce Wilson ’23
Jenkins Hall Cup
1st Place | Liza Ziel ’27
Lane Hall Cup
1st Place | Sallie Dollens ’26
2nd Place | Jane Lesemann ’30
3rd Place | Bee Dollens ’29
4th Place Emme Miller ’28
5th Place | Isabella Smith ’29
Pardue Hall Cup
1st Place | Adelaide McKenna ’30 2nd Place | Madeline Graham ’26
3rd Place | Harper Riley ’30
Alumnae Cup (Section A) | Allison Andrews ’15
Alumnae Cup (Section B)
1st Place | Anna Bradley Marrow ’17 2nd Place | Allison Andrews ’15
3rd Place | Amanda Oswalt Taylor ’02 4th Place | Mary Moore Cummings ’02
5th Place | Caroline Ravenel Strange ’10
For more information on the Ashley Hall Equestrian Team, please feel free to contact Ashley Hall Athletic Director, Franny Slay ’80 at [email protected].
When Ashley Hall fielded its first varsity lacrosse team during the 2011-12 season, it was the only SCISA school in the Charleston area to have a girls lacrosse team.
“We could only compete against public school teams,” says Athletic Director Franny Slay. “It wasn’t until 2016-17 that a few other SCISA schools started the sport for girls which meant we could finally hold a state championship.” The Panthers lacrosse team went on to become State Runners-up in 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19.
Now, after two seasons off the field, the Panther Lacrosse Program will be revived this spring under new head coach Aimee Burgos, and no one is more excited to see the sport return to Ashley Hall than student athletes:
“The girls truly loved this sport and worked hard to build the interest so that we could field a team again this year,” says Slay.
Coach Burgos (pictured right) has lived in Charleston for the past four years. Before relocating from Portland, Maine, she taught middle school Physical Education and coached both Varsity Lacrosse and Field Hockey. Outside lacrosse season, she’s the President and Programs Director for Charleston Field Hockey, a local non-profit organization trying to build the sport here in the Lowcountry.
“My true passion in life is coaching and working with young women to help them flourish through the lessons taught while being a part of a sports team,” says Burgos.
Ahead of the official start to the 2021-22 lacrosse season which kicks off Feb. 1, 2022, we chatted with Coach Burgos so the Ashley Hall community can get to know her better.
What’s your experience as a lacrosse player?
I have been playing lacrosse since I was in middle school and have made it a lifetime sport by playing recreationally into my adulthood. As much as I admired the attackman and sharp shooters that score goals, defense was my jam! I loved the idea of “protecting our house” and working with the goalies to achieve that shared goal. I was taught early on that ambition is the incentive that makes purpose great and achievement greater.
What are you most excited about in this new position at Ashley Hall?
I am so excited to become a part of the Ashley Hall community. Every staff member, student, and parent I have met so far has welcomed me with open arms. This school has been a prominent institution for over a century, and I am honored to learn more about the culture of the school and its long standing traditions.
At the start of the new lacrosse season, what’s the number one thing you’ll be communicating to players?
The only purpose in life is to flourish and to aid in the flourishing of others. This season will give new life to the Ashley Hall Lacrosse Program and build a team that is stronger than any wins or loses. It’s my goal to cultivate a culture that is inclusive and supportive to any player regardless of skill level.
Ashley Hall is a K-12 independent school for girls, with a co-ed preschool, committed to a talented and diverse student population. We consider for admission students of any race, color, religion, and national or ethnic origin.