Over the past several years, the Minford to Rio Grande pipeline has intensified a great deal.
But who could blame the RedStorm faithful? Because as with every school in Scioto County, the kids that come out of Falcon territory bring fire and desire to the table.
One of those kids that has made a significant impact throughout his high school football and track career is Trace Conley, who, at 6-2, 285 pounds, has proven himself to be a versatile lineman on the gridiron and a dependable shot put and discus hand on the track.
Rio Grande thought so as well, as Conley, who set a season-best throw of 110 feet, 11 inches in the discus throw in the Southern Ohio Conference Championships, signed a letter of intent to showcase his throwing skills for the RedStorm for the spring of 2018 on forward.
For Conley, the opportunity to throw for a program close to home is one that he won’t take for granted.
“It means a lot to me because I always wanted to be a college athlete,” Conley said. “Rio Grande is giving me an opportunity to pursue that dream,” Conley said. “It means a lot that the coaches believe in me and are willing to give me an opportunity to compete.”
Over his high school career, Conley not only proved to bookend both lines at the offensive and defensive tackle slots, respectively, but also served as a dependable hand in Minford’s track and field program.
In fact, the 6-2, 285-pound product never finished outside of the top-15 in either the discus or the shot put during his senior season in the 10 recorded events that he participated in, according to MileSplit Ohio. In eight of those 10 affairs, Conley finished in the top-10, while recording high-water marks of 110 feet, 11 inches in the discus and 42 feet, 11 and three-quarter inches in the shot put during the SOC Championships in Oak Hill.
“It felt great to be able to compete in athletics at a high level with all of the great talent in the area,” Conley said. “It is always nice to see all the hard work that I put in pay off as far as the improvement in my throws were concerned. I threw against some of the best throwers in my state and they helped me lock in and work harder to try and be the best that I could.”
Helping Conley in his quest to obtain an athletic scholarship was Jesse Ruby, a former SOC II Boys Track and Field Coach of Year award winner who has proven himself as a mainstay at Minford. Ruby sent Jeremy Furhmann, Breydan Tilley, and the school’s 4-by-400 and 4-by-800 meter relay units qualified for Division II, Region 7 competition this past year.
“I had the best coach I could ask for in (Jesse) Ruby,” Conley said. “He put in so much time and effort into making us successful every year and really made me a better athlete and person. As far as my teammates are concerned, they always made sports exciting to participate in during my four years as a student-athlete. They were all great teammates and friends that I’ll always be blessed to have.”
At Rio Grande, Conley will be joining a program that qualified seven of its 41 male track and field athletes, and nine athletes overall, for the NAIA Meet. Head coach Steve Willey, who will enter his 35th year overall with the Rio Grande track and field program in 2018, is a big part of that stability. He’s coached five NAIA National Champions and 100 NAIA All-Americans during his time with the RedStorm and led Nikola Andjelic, along with Clinton Campbell, to All-American honors in 2017.
But while Conley will be joining a new family with its own penchant of success, he won’t forget the family that helped him experience his initial successes as a student-athlete.
“Winning the SOC II Championship my sophomore year, which was the third year in a row that we won it,” Conley said of his favorite memory. “Running that victory lap with that team was simply special.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7