Padgett’s legacy unites the region

Published 9:34 am Saturday, June 18, 2016

Photo by Curtis Carden Ashlie Padgett, second from right, will be remembered as a three-sport standout at Unicoi County High School.

Photo by Curtis Carden
Ashlie Padgett, second from right, will be remembered as a three-sport standout at Unicoi County High School.


Sometimes a lede isn’t needed for a written piece.
For those who may not know me, my name is Curtis Carden. I’m from Hampton, and just wrapped up my second week with The Elizabethton Star.
Before accepting the position with this publication, I worked over five years with The Erwin Record. It was a busy, but fruitful time, with my duties ranging from covering local government, providing feature pieces in the community, assisting with paper routes and advertisements but my primary focus was serving as the sports reporter for Unicoi County.
I was lucky, no other word to put it, on receiving accolades during my time there by the Tennessee Press Association.
When you’re a bright-eyed, novice, those seem great, but as your career goes on … you learn to cherish those moments in the community as your true awards.
And I was awarded a tremendous group of student athletes and coaches to work with.
And with that being said, my heart – like the rest of the region – dropped when the news of Ashlie Padgett, a recent graduate of Unicoi County High School, passing was announced online.
The details of the event are already out there, no need in rehashing everything.
The three-sport standout just graduated high school not even a month ago following up a TSSAA substate contest against CAK in softball and earning the high school’s “Female Athlete of the Year” award.
I didn’t know what to think when the news broke. I ended up scrolling their Facebook and Twitter feeds, trying to keep dry eyes, reading all the support from the community and looking back at her athletic career with some of the photos taken.
You’re taught in the journalism profession to keep a blank slate about yourself when covering events. From fires, accidents that have claimed lives, reunions – I’ve kept with the tradition of reporting that facts for the public without a personal input placed in the story.
But I can’t lie saying that I developed a little bit of an attachment to Unicoi County. And when an individual spends almost nine months out of the year, for five years, being involved with the athletes – it is hard not to develop a bond.
Talking to the students after games for comments, having them shout you down to talk before games, watching them enjoy time with their teammates and lay it all on the line. The allure of covering prep athletics is you literally document these students’ lives. From their highest of highs to lowest of lows. The stories, photos, the social media, the talks with the families, and coaches. Unintentionally, you become part of their lives.
I’ve tried to wrap my brain around what I can do. I’ve sent up prayers. If I had an excessive monetary amount to give, I would. I don’t feel like I’m in any position to do a report on the incident, it’s not my place.
I just want to take a brief moment to share her story.
After her middle school career in 2010, I was privileged with the opportunity to cover the Lady Devil in each of her sports at UCHS. Volleyball matches, runs in the Three Rivers Conference either in junior varsity or varsity basketball and, of course, the various years on the road traveling to cover the high school’s softball team.
Nobody could have asked for a better student-athlete. Whether it was sharing a laugh with teammates, or foes, driving through the lane on the court, digging for a free volleyball or gunning someone out from right field … Ashlie was jack of all trades.
From all the senior night festivities for each team, her comments after games, you couldn’t have ask for nicer, sweet young lady.
And it goes back to her family. Her sister, Halie, an upcoming junior at UCHS is cut from the same cloth. Their parents, Charlie and Leslie, are two of the nicest individuals you could ever meet. Having the talks with Charlie before and after softball games will be something I won’t ever forget.
This is family that needs all the love and support. Following Ashlie’s passing, her grandfather, Johnny Padgett, Sr., passed away right after her. My thoughts are condolences will continue.
But while the area is stricken with grief, there is happiness to be found.
Ashlie and her grandfather have the greatest seats of all to watch over the Lady Devils for this upcoming season, cheering on Halie and the rest of the athletes. Watching the comments from people from all over only solidify that fact of what type of person Ashlie was on this earth and how she impacted northeast Tennessee
The biggest joy of it all is that there is no more pain … and that this isn’t goodbye to Ashlie or Johnny, just simply a see you soon.

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