“You’re jumping at your personal record right now,” trainer and husband Wolf Mahler told Ashtin Zamzow-Mahler during a recent workout.
Her response? “I’m gonna clear it.”
The always fearless attitude of Zamzow-Mahler has led her to many podiums in a storied track heptathlon career. A track champion on the state, collegiate, and national levels, the 24-year-old Goliad native now has her sights set on the world stage.
Zamzow-Mahler, one of the country’s premier heptathlon competitors, will go for the ultimate goal in the 2021 Olympic Trials, held June 26 and 27 in Eugene, OR. If she finishes in the top three in the seven-event endurance test, she will represent the United States in the Tokyo games.
The road to potentially representing her country began by representing her hometown, growing up in Goliad the daughter of Stacy and Kalleen. Saying she was “athletic enough” to compete in every sport as a child, Zamzow-Mahler quickly trekked onto the track path. Kalleen, a heptathlon competitor in her own right at Texas A&M, set her daughter up for a seven-event success story.
“She was like ‘well honey, this is what I did in college, so this is what you’re gonna be good at,’” Zamzow-Mahler said. “I was like cool, okay. She threw me into it, because I wasn’t good enough to do any individual events, but I was good enough to do all of them together.”
While the heptathlon (and one of the seven events, the javelin throw) weren’t offered in school, the budding superstar was put into the fire through summer meets. She began her path with a triathlon in middle school, a mixture of the shot put, high jump and 800-meter events.
“It (was) an extension of doing what we love to do in the summer ... it’s kind of our vacation, taking the RV, going places, it was a lot of fun,” Stacy said.
At Goliad High School, she thrived in all running areas. What she called a “great experience” on the GHS track earned her a 2014 UIL state title for the Tigerettes in both the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles. In her outside endeavor, she graduated to full heptathlon competitions, adding the 110-meter hurdles, the 200-meter dash, javelin throwing and long jump from her prior triathlons.
A coveted commodity after high school, Zamzow-Mahler first picked Texas A&M for school, calling it a “very difficult” transition into college athlete life.
“College is a completely different world,” she said. “That’s all you’re doing 24/7, running track and going to school. You’re immersed in it completely. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming, you really don’t know what’s going on, but I got the hang of it after a couple of years and really started thriving.”
She thrived after a transfer to the University of Texas in 2015, where she could be closer to training partner and future husband Mahler. Taking advantage of the renowned Longhorns training staff, she lit up the track scene in Austin, becoming a three-time NCAA Division I All-American selection. Her college career crested in spring of 2019, besting the national heptathlon field with 6222 points.
With Wolf by her side, Zamzow-Mahler took the full-time endeavor further, competing professionally without the luxuries of Longhorn life.
“In college, you have a whole network supporting you,” she said. “You have a medical staff always there for you, you have a trainer 24/7 watching you. When you’re on your own after you graduate, you’re just like, ‘my knee kind of hurts,’ okay, try to see a doctor in a few weeks ... you have to find your doctors, you have to basically find the meets you want to get into, and it’s just a lot harder on your own.”
Wolf, an All-American Longhorn in his own right, used his decathlon skillset to aid in his partner’s training, specifically assisting in javelin throwing form among other techniques.
“We’ve both had some success ... we’ve had to rely on each other for a lot of support, coaching, that’s kind of why we’re in the position we’re in now,” he said.
To get a chance at the trials, Zamzow-Mahler was required to have one of the 18 best scores in the nation. Using prior contacts to enter herself into any meet possible, she plied her trade at open high school meets to prove her worth. Adding another bump in the path was the injury bug, biting her with a strained meniscus in January and a strained popliteal ligament in February.
Facing dwindling time to get into the trial field, she kept her fearless attitude even through the minimal work during injury downtime.
“How do you deal with it mentally?,” she asked, knowing the answer. “You just shake it off, just enjoy what you’re doing while you’re doing it.”
The mentality paid off on May 15 at the APU Last Chance Twilight meet in Azusa, CA, with a new personal best score of 6291 propelling her to the trial field. The “last chance” became the best opportunity for the Goliad native.
Now waiting out the last remaining days before the biggest meet of her life, coach and “programmer” Wolf wants to keep things as normal as possible.
“It’s a game of enjoying the experience, getting fired up for it, and not doing anything out of the ordinary that’s gotten her there.”
The Olympic hopeful concurs in this gameplan, going full-circle from her early family vacations by taking an RV trip to the meet with her husband from their Austin abode.
“A lot of people talk it up,” she said. “I’m the type of person who doesn’t want to know. I’m just going to go out and have fun and do my best anyways. The extra pressure adds a lot more stress that I don’t want on my shoulders ... I’m thinking it’s just another meet, that if I just do the same thing I did a couple weeks ago, I will be going to the Olympics. It’s going in calm, cool, collected is the thing.”
The 2021 Olympic Trials will be broadcast on NBC from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on June 26 and from 6 p.m to 7:30 p.m. on June 27.