MINFORD — It’s safe to say that Luke Rader’s track and field career has grown by leaps…or rather jumps.

Those being hurdles, even the high jump, the rarefied air of the triple jump, and especially his specialty of the long jump.

It will continue to blossom by jumping at the next level —as the Minford High School senior recently announced his intention to compete in collegiate track and field for Marshall University.

Rader made it official at a recent signing ceremony at Minford High School, where he was flanked by his parents Ryan and Jacinda Rader, Minford High School track and field head coach Jesse Ruby, Minford High School athletic director Kristin Ruby, and several Falcon teammates and friends —from both track and field and boys soccer.

Rader recently completed his final indoor track and field season, and began practicing for his final outdoor campaign at Minford.

He will do both indoor and outdoor at Marshall, which he said he chose the Huntington-based school “for starters because it was close to home, and I could come back and forth when I needed to”.

Of course, that was the easy answer —seeing that Huntington and Minford are less than an hour apart.

Rader said Marshall offers much more than proximity, though.

“The facilities there are top of the line, and would allow me to further my athletic career in what I feel is a much better fashion,” he said.

Rader ran down his lengthy list of indoor events —which include long jump, triple jump, 60m hurdles and 60m dash —and his even longer outdoor checklist.

That includes the 110m high hurdles, the 300m hurdles, the 100m dash, the 200m dash, the 4x100m relay, the 4x200m relay, possibly the high jump —and especially the long jump.

His personal record in the long jump is 21 feet and six and one-half inches, which he set last season in capturing the Southeast District Division II championship at Washington Court House.

At the rainsoaked Division II Region 7 meet the following Thursday, Rader recorded a best jump of 20 feet and eight inches —and missed qualifying for the coveted state meet among the top four by a mere razor-thin three inches.

At the Southern Ohio Conference championship meet at Northwest, the Minford men muscled for 78-and-a-half points, in which Rader won the 110m hurdles and 100m dash —and Tuesday’s long jump with a leap of 20 feet and 11 inches.

That strong outdoor success carried over into his indoor senior season —and climaxed two weeks ago at the annual Ohio Association of Track and Cross Country Coaches state championship, held inside the Spire Institute in Geneva.

With the Division II and III programs combined, Rader’s runner-up effort in the triple jump and third-place performance for the long jump likely caught the eyes of observers.

He jumped 21 feet and four and three-quarters inches in the long jump —trailing only fellow seniors Ryne Shackelford of Keystone (23-10 3-4) and Braylen Eaton of Beachwood (21-5 1-2).

His triple jump, which is not offered in Ohio’s outdoor season, was a personal-best 43 feet and eight and one-half inches —trailing only junior Brayden Green of Gilmour Academy (44-5 1-2).

Rader summarized his career improvement at Minford —which unfortunately did not include his freshman season, canceled by the Ohio High School Athletic Association because of the coronavirus threat.

“It’s been really good because I keep progressing at a faster rate each year. I hope this year it will carry me all the way through to the outdoor state meet,” he said. “The long jump is definitely my best event, but it really depends on the person. Coach Ruby has said that he has had a lot of people come through here that are great jumpers, but not many have come through that can do all the events. I still feel that I am developing a lot. This indoor season I’ve kind of struggled to get back to where I was during outdoor, but I’ve worked the last two weeks to get back there into jumping in the 21s (feet).”

Ruby repeated Rader’s sentiments, saying that his signee was primarily a junior high hurdler —but that he should long jump at the high school level.

As a junior, the Falcons began competing in more indoor meets —and Rader rocketed his way to an initial third-place finish at the 2022 D-II/D-III state championship.

“I always like to have the philosophy that if you hurdle, you long jump or high jump. I don’t think Luke ever long jumped until he was in high school. He improved a little bit, saw that he had some success with it, and then he became really adamant about working towards getting better in that event,” explained Ruby. “He progressed as a junior, finished third in the long jump at the indoor state meet, and that really propelled him to his outdoor season. He had some really good jumps throughout the year, even though he had a bad day at regionals despite an absolute downpour and just plain bad weather. I think that pushed him to want to be even more successful. And so he has worked at it a lot, we started doing indoor meets again this year as early as we could. Started playing around with the triple jump, and now he is really bought in and having a lot of success with that event too.”

While jumping at Marshall, Rader explained his desire —with the Thundering Herd’s blessing —to do the 10-event, two-day decathlon.

It would be only two meets for that, as the decathlon also includes the throwing events of shot put, discus and javelin.

Rader said he has no experience with throws, but he has pole vaulted before —with that prestigious event part of the 10.

“They are having me specialize in jumps, but they also want me to be a decathlon runner,” he said. “I would only do the decathlon twice a year, in one other meet and then at the conference meet.”

That conference meet you ask?

Marshall moved into the Sun Belt Conference from Conference USA just this past academic year.

“I want to compete well within the conference. The Sun Belt is going to be a lot tougher competition, so I am just trying to compete with them,” said Rader.

Ruby added that Rader is not your ordinary run-of-the-mill one-event athlete.

“It’s fun. He can run relays, he can hurdle, he runs the sprints, he has pole vaulted in the past. Just an all-around track athlete who can do a lot of things,” said the coach. “But his success is due to his work ethic. He has been a great representative of a student-athlete for us.”

As for the academic equation, Rader said he plans to probably major in Civil Engineering — and minor in Business.

But he is excited about his opportunity, and the chance to make the jump to collegiate track and field at the highest level.

“I’m very relieved, stress-wise,” said Rader, of having his college signing completed prior to the spring. “It just takes a big weight off me. I don’t have to keep going on college visits back and forth to places trying to figure out where I want to go, where I want to run, or what place would fit best for me. I am thrilled about it. Just the experience level of it all. Not so much I get to compete at the Division I level, but the friends that I will make there, just the experience traveling with them, it will be a great time.”

Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2023 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved