Over the last few years, the name Ally Andress became virtually synonymous in the local sports world with terms such as “success” and “winning” while she was starring in three sports for Glen Rose High School.
Andress, a 2018 GRHS graduate who won a Class 4A girls state championship in high jump as a junior, signed an NCAA Division I track and field scholarship with Texas A&M. She was redshirted for her freshman year with the Aggies, so she was eager to start making her mark in her second year in College Station.
Then came the bad news for everyone — the COVID-19 virus.
When Andress received word that the remainder of the NCAA sports schedule was being canceled, she could hardly believe it was true.
“It was hard to believe at first. I was really disappointed,” Andress told the Glen Rose Reporter earlier this week, in a phone conversation from her parents’ home in Glen Rose. “I didn’t know what that meant for the outdoor season. They still had some meets on the schedule. After a few days, they just decided to cancel everything.”
“When I found out that my outdoor season was going to be canceled, I was upset,” Andress said. “It was very upsetting to hear. I was excited for the outdoor season. I was ready to go; I was pumped up. It just happened so quick, so at first I was like in
shock. And then I was like, ‘Well, dang, I won’t even be competing outdoor. But I know it’s safety, just precaution.
“Right now we can’t even practice on our own track or anything, so I’m at home right now trying to find time to practice. It’s hard. I don’t have the weight room or anything because all that’s shut down. So I have to be kind of creative with my workouts.
“It gives me extra time to work on myself and get stronger, so it’s not a bad thing. The biggest challenge is trying to stay in a schedule. Sometimes the day will get away. It’s kind of hard to manage your time.
“I just started yesterday on my online classes. It’s working out pretty well. But I haven’t had a test yet so I’m not going to say anything until I take those tests.”
The shutdown, of course, Andress and all of her teammates disappointed. She will have the rest of the current school year to focus on her academics, online — and then ramp up for next season, which will be her third as a student at A&M.
In addition to her physical prowess in high school, Andress earned academic all-state recognition in both basketball and volleyball. She was a member of the National Honor Society, and graduated in the top 10 of her class.
Competing in track for GRHS, Andress did something only a few elite athletes have been able to accomplish — earning three medals at the state meet. She won the gold medal as the state high jump champion in Austin as a junior. She also brought home the silver medal as the runner-up in both her sophomore and senior years.
As an all-state basketball performer and district Most Valuable Player for coach Ramsey Ghazal’s Lady Tigers, Andress averaged a team-leading 21 points and 7.9 rebounds a game as a senior, and was second in blocked shots with 69. As a dominant presence at forward, she helped lead the Lady Tigers to all-time school records for total victories (34) as well as consecutive wins (23) as a senior. That Lady Tiger squad had an incredible season record of 34-2, and reached the semifinals of the Region I-4A tournament.
Andress was an all-district performer in volleyball for head coach Sandy Langford. She, along with all-state volleyball teammates Logan Smith and Libby Hinton, was a key part of Langdon’s dominant squad that posted an incredible 48-2 record in 2017.
“Ally is an extra special, talented, and competitive athlete,” Langford stated. “She is very self-driven, self-motivated, and positive young lady who wants to be the very best at everything she does. Ally will continue to do great (in) track and field at A&M. She has been working very hard at learning all of the different events she participates in and is doing a great job!”
ALLY THE AGGIE
Andress is majoring in education, and wants to become a teacher and possibly a coach.
Under successful A&M head track coach Pat Henry Andress has competed in six meets so far. it was decided that Andress would use her all-around athleticism in the pentathlon and heptathlon.
The pentathlon features five events — hurdles, long jump, shot put, 800-meter run, plus her top spceialty, the high jump. The heptathlon consists of seven events — hurdles, shot put, 200-meter run, long jump, javelin and 800-meter run.
Andress said that although she had worked hard to improve, even throughout last summer, she wasn’t quite sure she was at the level she wanted to reach.
It would have been easy for Andress to have been overlooked in the huge, high-profile A&M track program, despite her high school sports credentials. When Henry was the track coach at LSU, his teams won 27 national championships, and he coached 37 Olympians before taking the A&M job in 1987. At A&M he has been Big 12 Coach of the Year eight times, and won men’s and women’s outdoor national titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
One of Andress’s current teammates at A&M, junior Tyra Gittens, was the 2019 NCAA women’s silver medalist and set a school record in the pentathlon with a total score of 6,049 points.
“You’re training with these people that are like future Olympians,” said Andress, who resides in College Station when she’s on campus at A&M. “A lot of these people who are in college track, they’re also aspiring to go to the Olympics. It’s crazy.”
Recently, however, Andress began to sense that the coaching staff, including jumping specialty coach Sean Brady, were “pretty happy” with her progress.
“First of all, that transition was hard, and adding six other events is unimaginable,” Andress said. “I don’t know how I did it, but I just had to persevere through every practice and really be coachable throughout the process of learning.
“I know last summer, I worked really hard to be in shape and get stronger. And when I came back in the fall semester of this year, the coaches were really impressed to see I didn’t just let myself go. I continued to work all throughout the summer. They were impressed.
“I just didn’t think that I was there yet. When coach told me that I would be competing, it was a huge deal for me. The last weekend of spring break was the national meet, but I did not qualify for that one.”
When asked if having Gittens as a teammate has pushed her even more, Andress said, “Yeah. I really look up to her. Just practicing with her, automatically makes you better.”
Having been a graceful, coordinated athlete who excelled in multiple sports is serving Andress well as she continues to adapt to the new world of collegiate pentathlon and heptathlon. High jump, naturally, is still a strength, but she feels her most improvement has been in an event that she had not competed in since her freshman year at GRHS.
“I think the event that I’m most improved in is the hurdles,” Andress said. “And actually, if you do volleyball you’re supposed to be a pretty good javelin thrower because the volleyball hit is very similar to how you throw the javelin.”
Although she had to get used to throwing the javelin for the first time in her life as a collegiate athlete, another previously unexplored event has proven to be the most challenging.
“I think the event that is the most awkward is probably the shot put because never in my life would I have thought that I would throw a shot put,” she Andress who is a slender 5-11 athlete who won’t turn 20 years of age until April. “That one’s been the biggest struggle for me to learn.”
Andress noted, “I had done my first pentathlon, and it was so much fun. I was excited to do the heptathlon because that’s where they add the javelin, and the javelin is actually one of my favorite events that I learned. It’s disappointing that I haven’t done the heptathlon yet, but there’s always next year.”