Courtney and Ashley Ferda, soon to be reunited at the University of Montana, are cousins, celebrated athletes and household names in Whitefish.
And they’re best friends.
Courtney, who graduated from Whitefish High School in 2007, is entering the second year of her track and field scholarship at UM, while Ashley, a 2008 Bulldog graduate, is set to begin her first year playing basketball for the Lady Griz. But before the reunion is complete, Courtney is going to use her redshirt option and spend nearly a year on a mission through her church in Fort Smith, Ark.
When she returns next June, she’ll move in with Ashley in Missoula.
“We’ve always been pretty much like sisters, even though we’re cousins,” Ashley said.
The Ferdas grew up within five minutes of each other in Whitefish and, although they are nearly two years and one grade apart, they have long been best friends. They learned to feed off of each other’s abilities and work ethics, both in and out of the gym or weight room. Courtney recalls a one-on-one basketball game or two, but aside from that, she said there wasn’t much head-to-head competition.
Most of their time practicing together was spent more in the spirit of cooperation than competition. They rebounded for each other in basketball, spent hours in the gym practicing volleyball together and shared the track when hurdling.
“We just knew each other’s abilities and we didn’t get mad at each other when one was doing better,” Ashley said. “We kind of used each other to get better.”
Courtney and Ashley are prototypes for the well-rounded athlete. Both could have played college in three different sports: volleyball, basketball and track. Courtney was a standout in basketball and volleyball, and earned a variety of records and state championships in track. Ashley was a three-time state track champion, as well as a multiple all-state selection in volleyball and basketball.
Both of their fathers are long-time coaches in different sports, so practice is second nature for the cousins.
“Our family’s always in the gym,” Courtney said.
At college, Courtney runs the 400-meter hurdles, which is fitting for her family. Scot Ferda, Ashley’s father, was a college hurdler. Ashley’s oldest brother, Tucker, was a state placer in the hurdles, the middle brother, Taylor, won the 110-meter high hurdle state championship in 2006 and Ashley won back-to-back state championships her sophomore and juniors years in the 100-meter hurdles. In Ashley’s senior year, she finished sixth in the hurdles, but won state in the javelin.
Ashley can play point or shooting guard on the basketball court, demonstrating equal comfort running an offense as in taking the game over with scoring. At UM she will run the point. Her senior year at Whitefish, she finished second in the conference in scoring and assists at 15.8 and 5.7, respectively. She led the conference in free-throw percentage, three-pointers and steals, averaging a remarkable 4.5 per game.
This summer Ashley went to a five-day, intensive point guard camp in Texas, playing against guards from colleges such as Ole Miss and Kansas. At the camp, she watched film, studied the intricacies of the college point guard position and played basketball from 9 a.m. until 10 p.m., stopping only for an hour at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
“It was draining,” Ashley said. “I was pretty tired, but it was good for me.”
Ashley, 18, begins her freshman year at UM on August 25th and will soon afterward begin a lifting and training routine that will keep her in shape until practice begins later in the fall. Courtney, who will turn 20 in September, the same month she leaves for her mission, is comforted by the knowledge that when she returns her cousin and best friend will be waiting in Missoula.
“I’m so excited to live with her and I’m so excited for her,” Courtney said. “She’s amazing.”
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