When a person has to miss a significant amount of time with an injury, it can be tough to get the stamina and overall performance necessary to be able to qualify for, or participate in, a state championship, regardless of the sport.
However, when a person is as positive and as upbeat as Wheelersburg’s Ellie Ruby is, it’s not a surprise to see perseverance win out.
After overcoming early-season adversity, the defending 2016 OHSAA Division III Long Jump State Champion not only qualified for state in long jump, but also qualified in the 100 and 300 meter hurdles events to earn a trip to Columbus for the third year in a row in each event. There, the junior standout collected a second-place finish in the 100 meter hurdles, a fifth-place showing in the long jump, and a ninth-place mark in the 300 meter hurdles.
For Ruby, the opportunity to compete at state for a third year in a row was simply a blessing in and of itself.
“I set a PR in the 100 meter hurdles, which was really good, and finished second in the event, which was amazing,” Ruby said. “As far as the long jump was concerned, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, but I’ve got another shot at it next year, so that’s okay. Hopefully, I’ll come out (in 2018) and get a title in it. That would be awesome. Additionally, it was just very exciting to be at state. The Lord and Savior has blessed me tremendously with the opportunities that I’ve had at state over the past three years.”
The opportunity to accomplish such a rare feat, however, didn’t come without struggle.
After recording a team-high 443 digs on the volleyball court and averaging nine points, 4.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and three steals as a strong contributor for Wheelersburg’s volleyball and girls basketball programs, the junior looked poised to have a stellar track campaign
However, Ruby wasn’t so fortunate — at least at the start of the year. A broken finger suffered in Wheelersburg’s season-ending loss to North Adams forced the junior to miss the first five weeks of the track season due to injury, as doctors feared that sweating would affect the three pins that were inserted in her finger.
“At the end of basketball, I broke my finger, and I had to have surgery on it,” Ruby said. “It was kind of challenging and stressful on trying to make it back to state. I wasn’t able to work out at all because I was told that sweating would hurt my pins,” Ruby said. “But once the month of April hit, it was go, go, go. My Dad (Todd Ruby) and I worked out a lot, and we finally got back to where I needed to be.”
That hard work to get back into top form was proven in spades at the Division II District Meet at Washington Court House, where the junior jumped 17 feet, one inch to take home top honors in the long jump and added second-place finishes in both the 100 meter (15.44) and 300 meter hurdles (47.63) to advance to the Division II, Region 7 Meet in Athens. There, Ruby collected third-place finishes in the long jump (18 feet, three inches) and 100 meter hurdles (15.15), and added on to that with a fourth-place showing in the 300 meter hurdles via a time of 45.62 to qualify for state for the third consecutive year in both events.
Still, Ruby felt the pressure to perform as she had last year — until she realized that her best was simply going to have to do.
“Coming out of regionals and having qualified for all three events again, the stress of qualifying for state was there,” Ruby said. “I had put a lot of pressure on myself. I was just thinking, ‘I need to perform and do well this year, jump this well, run that well.’ But then, I realized that whatever happens, happens for a reason.”
And once again, Ruby, like a true state champion, came through when it mattered the most.
After finishing second in the 100 meter hurdles in 2016, Ruby came back to not only repeat the feat in 2017, but in doing so, set a new personal best with her time of 14.66. The junior also remained consistent in the long jump by jumping 17 feet, 6.25 inches on her first try and then stepping that mark up to 17 feet, 10.25 inches on her third attempt to take home fifth place overall. Ruby closed out the state meet with a ninth-place finish in the 300 meter hurdles behind her 46.46 mark to officially conquer the early-season adversity with another excellent showing at the OHSAA Division III State Meet.
Ruby, however, isn’t settling with three appearances at the state meet. The three-sport athlete not only wants to reclaim the top perch in the long jump at the Division II level, but wants to break through and win the 100 meter hurdles, as well, after finishing in the top four in the event over each of her first three seasons as a high school athlete.
“I’m going to try to win a state championship in the 100 meter hurdles and in the long jump, and try to finish top-four in the 300 meter hurdles,” Ruby said. “Also, if you place in any event at the state meet, you get to go and compete for a Midwest Conference Championship, so I hope to do that as well. Lastly, I want to set personal records of my own in all three events, so I can have better times and jumps for college coaches to look at in order to get recruited at the collegiate level.”
As thrilled as Ruby is going into her senior year, she’s as thrilled — if not moreso — to help future Wheelersburg High School track participant Lauren Jolly along as she transitions from the middle school ranks to the high school realm. The freshman-to-be finished fifth in the 100 meter dash and sixth in the 200 meter dash.
“Lauren’s one of the sweetest girls ever,” Ruby said. “She is a hurdler, as well, so I’m going to take her under my wing and help her as well. First, however, we have volleyball and basketball together, so I’m hoping for her to not only have fun in track, but in volleyball and basketball, as well.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7