Brooke Ashby poses for photographs in the Visitor's Center February 19th, 2020.  (WVU Photo/Brian Persinger)

Brooke Ashby, the 2020-21 alternate Mountaineer.

While Brooke Ashby was still in high school, it was a conversation with former Mountaineer mascot Michael Garcia that truly sparked her interest in the position.

Ashby was working an event as her school’s mascot, the Husky, and Garcia was there. The two spoke, and Garcia asked about her plans for the future. When he found out she was planning to attend WVU, he told her he’d be mad if she didn’t apply to be the Mountaineer.

“That was my first real, ‘Yeah, I’m going to go for this’ kind of situation,” Ashby, a junior communication sciences and disorders student, said.

Ashby was a junior in high school at the time, but growing up 45 minutes from Morgantown, that wasn’t the first moment she thought of applying for the coveted role. She said that came when she was just 13 years old.

“I grew up with a love for the state, a love for the University, and I just think that’s the best way I would be able to express that pride and express that love,” Ashby said of being the Mountaineer.

Although she did not receive the honor of being the 2020-21 Mountaineer after applying for it and being named a finalist, Ashby was selected to serve as the alternate Mountaineer for next school year.

“So, for me, it’s very humbling and honoring to even have the alternate position,” the Mannington, West Virginia, native said. “I’m still very excited, and I’m really looking forward to the opportunities that are going to come within the next year.”

This was the second year Ashby applied to be the Mountaineer and the second time she was named a finalist for it, but she fell short both times. She said she wasn’t really expecting to win last year, so she wasn’t very discouraged by the result, but she immediately turned her attention to this year’s selection process.

Ashby said she wanted to become more confident for this year, so she worked on her interview skills and learned more University history to do so, which she thinks benefited her going into this year’s application.

“I kind of came in knowing what to expect a little bit with the interview,” Ashby said. “I mean a lot of it was different questions, but I had a better feel for it.”

And despite technically being a senior going into 2020-21, Ashby will be returning to Morgantown for an additional year due to changing her major in 2019-20.

Ashby is currently a communication sciences and disorders student, but after realizing she only needed about 18 credit hours to complete a bachelor of arts in psychology, she decided to pursue a double major, and in return be at WVU for five years.

With now having two years left at WVU, Ashby said she plans on applying for the Mountaineer once again for 2021-22, and to use her year as the alternate Mountaineer as “a learning year” to “get hands-on experience in the buckskins.”

“The way I look at it, it just gives me two years to bear the buckskins instead of one,” Ashby said. “I’m almost looking at this as a little bit of an advantage; I get to figure it all out as I go along and learn the ways of it before I get fully sworn in.”

Even if she isn’t selected for the position next year, nothing seems to be stopping her from one day landing the role she’s wanted since middle school.

“Honestly, if I don’t win, I plan on going to grad school here. I’m just gonna try again,” Ashby said. “I actually even said in my interview, I made the joke that I was just never going to graduate and I was going to keep applying until they finally selected me.”