For most college-bound seniors, choosing a college or university to attend is a very difficult decision. It requires a choice based on things such as affordability, on-campus activities and sport programs, size of the school, distance from home and other social factors.
For West Virginia women’s soccer player Ashtin Larkin, selecting a university 2,500 miles away from home never bothered the Cerritos, Calif., native. It was a much simpler decision than anticipated.
“I don’t think distance was a problem because I knew it was a four-year commitment and nothing permanent,” said Larkin, now in her final season with the Mountaineers. “I really enjoyed my visit and wanted the opportunity to play for a Top 25 program. It was something new and I thought I would try it.”
“Try being the key word, thought her parents. Before Larkin left home and throughout the recruiting process, Kym and Fred Larkin were constantly involved and aided their oldest daughter on the decision-making process.
“My mom and dad always said, ‘Give it a year and come home if you don’t like it,’” explained Larkin.
The advice, wholeheartedly sincere and much appreciated, never needed addressing. The thought of testing the waters for a year did not cross Larkin’s mind.
“I don’t want to be associated with a quitter’s mentality,” said Larkin. “I was determined to make the most of my experience. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. I’m kind of proud of myself for being able to move across the country.”
An easy decision would have been for Larkin to find a place to play college soccer closer to home. She played for one the nation’s top club teams in the Slammers Futbol Club, giving herself more options to pick from to continue her career.
“I wanted to experience something else and play for a top program,” shared Larkin, who flies home only twice a school year. “I could have stayed closer to home and gotten more playing time at some programs. But I wanted to win championships and compete at the highest level. I think I’ve worked hard to get to this point both athletically and academically.”
Larkin is off and running in 2010, starting all four matches in the midfield after competing in 21 of 23 contests as a junior. She also contributed a two-assist effort in WVU’s 3-0 win at Bowling Green in the team’s road opener. It marked the first two-assist game by a Mountaineer since October of 2008.
“I came in really fit this year after spending six weeks in the summer with Jerry (Handley, our strength coach),” said Larkin of her fast start. “I was able to pass my fitness tests early and allow myself to focus on other things. And that hard work is paying off with my play on the field.”
Technology has helped Larkin’s parents follow their daughter’s playing career. The two can be found almost every weekend in front of a computer, watching GameTracker for live updates or huddling around a monitor to follow the live webstream of the game.
“My mom and my dad are always on the web checking for scores or stories or whatever,” said Larkin, one of three captains on the team. “My dad knows more about what is going on in WVU athletics than I do because he’s always checking MSN (MSNsportsNET.com). He would ask me if I saw that picture of myself and I would be like, ‘No, I missed it.’ They are big on finding our games on TV or watching us play through an Internet broadcast.”
Hours of staring in front of a computer came in handy last fall when Larkin scored her first career goal in a Mountaineer uniform, pushing West Virginia out of an offensive funk for a 1-0 win over visiting Tennessee.
While her parents could not attend that particular match, she knew immediately they saw the goal.
“I remember that because I had lots of messages on my phone after the game from my mom,” laughed Larkin. “She left more than one message in fact. They were really excited about it.”
The leap of faith to travel to Morgantown has been a positive one for Larkin. She admits, however, to have not yet mastered all of the “East Coast” tendencies.
“I’ve gotten used to it I guess,” said Larkin of the weather. “I had been in snow but never really seen it fall until I got here. And there isn’t the breeze in the spring and summer that California has.
“It was something I had to get used to, including my attire. The difference is the people here and from the East Coast know how to be warm and dress cute. I don’t think I made it past the be warm stage. I just layer up.”
Larkin’s adjustment cycle is nearly complete as she competes in her final season wearing a Mountaineer uniform. And the choice to attend West Virginia has been a rewarding one.
“Picking WVU has allowed me to do something that I couldn’t have done in California. I can’t say that I regret anything. I love being a Mountaineer.”
By Tim Goodenow
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