Multi-sport athlete named All-State

Junior-to-be one of emerging talents

By Kevin Colley -

Clay’s Jensen Warnock slides into home plate during her freshman season with the Lady Panthers.

Clay’s Jensen Warnock slides into home plate during her freshman season with the Lady Panthers.

Michael Hamilton

Humble competitors who work hard will always be in good shape, regardless of what has happened before or what lies ahead in the future.

Over the first two years of her high school career, Clay’s Jensen Warnock has proven to be a dynamo for the Lady Panthers as her elite ability, both on the basketball court and the softball diamond, has shone through in spades like a shooting star glistening into the night.

Not surprisingly, Warnock’s efforts in softball for Jason Gearhart’s ballclub, which included a batting average that exceeded .540 to go along with five home runs, 15 doubles, and 37 RBI (all team highs), allowed the junior-to-be to take home Division IV First-Team All-State honors in 2017.

For Warnock, however, the opportunity to simply play on the court and on the diamond is a blessing in and of itself.

“I’m just really greatful for the opportunity that I had to play this year,” Warnock said. “We’ve all been playing together since we’ve been in the third grade, so I think that we play really well together.”

Warnock’s special talents as a multi-sport athlete, however, put the 5-10 standout right at the center of it all.

In addition to her softball exploits — where the shortstop and three-hole hitter not only led Clay to a three-win improvement and its first Division IV, Region 15 appearance since 2010 despite the loss of All-State outfielder Tressa Carter from the year prior, but a 53-7 overall mark in her first two years with the Lady Panthers as a stellar two-way player — Warnock also proved to spearhead a strong turnaround inside the Clay girls basketball program.

Much of the Lady Panthers’ improvement from an 8-16 overall record in 2015-16 to a 14-9 mark in 2016-17, in fact, came in large part due to Warnock’s 15.7 points, 6.9 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks per contest, which were all team-highs. Warnock’s 3.3 steals per contest — second only to Skylar Artis’ 3.4 mark — was second on the roster as the sophomore earned Second-Team All-Southeast District and Honorable Mention All-State accolades for the second straight season.

Above all that, however, Warnock exemplifies a strong character as a student-athlete. The sophomore earned straight-A’s in each of the four nine week grading periods at Clay High School and has been a member of a Lady Panther basketball unit that has been honored for its academic achievement by the Ohio High School Basketball Coaches Association (OHSBCA) for two consecutive seasons due to its high grade point average as a unit.

Obviously, maintaining that standard of excellence across any field can make one’s head spin. However, if Warnock has been rattled any at all, her accomplishments certainly don’t show it.

“It’s a lot to keep up with,” Warnock said. “But I love sports, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Over the past year, Warnock says that one of the biggest improvements that the Clay softball program has made has been on the hitting side of the coin. The rising junior says that Clay coaches Jason and Cindy Gearhart, who have continued the standard of excellence that was formed under former head coaches Carol Vice and Teresa Ruby, have been paramount in that improvement.

“We practiced a lot on our hitting, and I thank our coaches (Jason and Cindy Gearhart) for that because it really worked out well in the end for us,” Warnock said. “That’s really what we needed to work on before the season began, and I thought that we did really well at it. They push us really hard in practice, and I’m very grateful for that. It pays off in the end.”

Even with a winning percentage well into the high 80s (88 percent) over the past two seasons, it’s very possible that the Clay softball program could be in store for a massive improvement in 2018 and 2019 — which is simply incredible considering the amount of success that the Lady Panthers have had as of late. Clay lost just one senior (Bre Donahoe) from its 28-2 team in 2017 and only loses Julia Swain following the 2018 campaign, which could have the seven-person sophomore class in contention to make a state title run over the next two seasons.

Regardless of what happens, however, Warnock simply wants the Lady Panthers to stick to the same blueprint that has allowed the unit to garner as much success as it has to this point in time.

“I just hope that we push ourselves, play together, always give 110 percent, and go far in the postseason,” Warnock said. “We still have a lot of growing that we can do. It’s going to be really exciting.”

Clay’s Jensen Warnock slides into home plate during her freshman season with the Lady Panthers.’s Jensen Warnock slides into home plate during her freshman season with the Lady Panthers. Michael Hamilton
Junior-to-be one of emerging talents

By Kevin Colley