PORTSMOUTH — Posting a 4.0 GPA in the classroom while being one of the most influential figures on an athletic roster is quite tough to accomplish.
However, Shawnee State sophomore Claire Carruthers has managed to accomplish just that.
A member of the No. 1 doubles and the No. 2 singles units at SSU, Carruthers has continued to build on a stellar tennis career following an outstanding prep career at Clinton-Massie High School — just east of Cincinnati.
For Carruthers, it’s simply been a thrill to be able to continue to balance her academic and athletic exploits.
“Being a part of the tennis team at SSU is great,” Carruthers said. “It really means that I finally made it after all of my effort and hard work. I feel so honored to be a part of such a great program with awesome teammates. They truly have made my experience the best.”
During her high school career at Clinton-Massie, Carruthers proved to be a strong two-sport standout with the Falcons while playing tennis in the fall and softball in the spring.
In the former sport, Carruthers set a school record with 52 victories at the varsity level and added in another program record with 44 wins in doubles competition — all while leading Clinton-Massie from just two victories as a freshman to an outstanding 15-4 mark in her senior season to go along with a runner-up finish in conference action.
Carruthers was named as a second-team all-South Central Ohio League (SCOL) honoree as a sophomore and junior, and followed up those campaigns by earning first-team all-Southern Buckeye Academic Athletic Conference (SBAAC) honors in Clinton-Massie’s first season inside its new league home.
Since beginning her tennis career at SSU, Carruthers has looked back, somewhat in awe, of the rise in ability of the student-athletes from the high school to college ranks.
“It was a lot easier looking back at it now,” Carruthers said. “During my time at Massie, I thought that the competition level was tough. However, after playing a season at Shawnee State, I was proven wrong instantly. At Massie, the competition level that might have compared to the teams we play now are probably the teams we played during tournament time at the end of the high school season. Some of the people that I played during high school had never played tennis in their life, but in college, these people have been playing since they could walk,” Carruthers said. “It’s insane how much the competition level increased just going to college.”
On the softball field at Clinton-Massie, Carruthers proved to be a critical piece for a program that developed into a regional and state powerhouse during her four years with the Lady Falcons.
Initially a key hand at pitcher, Carruthers was moved to the infield and accepted a starring role outside of her primary position for a unit that ultimately won six straight conference championships — including a title in each of the four seasons that Carruthers played at Clinton-Massie.
In Carruthers’ last pair of seasons, the Lady Falcons ended up winning back-to-back OHSAA Division II Southwest District championships, and after advancing to the Division II regional semifinals in 2017, avenged a 14-4 mercy-rule loss to Greenville by defeating the same program, 11-4, the following season to collect the school’s first-ever (OHSAA Division II) Regional Final appearance in the sport.
Carruthers, a first-team all-SBAAC honoree in her final year of competition, helped lead Clinton-Massie to a 27-6 overall record.
“Playing softball was a little bit different competition-wise,” Carruthers said. “The schools were a little tougher to compete with, especially the non-league teams we played. Our coach (Anthony Lauer) did his best to make sure we played the toughest people, so come tourney time, we were prepared. I had some of the best times of my life.”
In addition to her success as an athlete at Clinton-Massie, Carruthers proved herself as an all-around scholar, as she earned a spot inside the school’s National Honor Society — even putting together an Epilepsy week to spread awareness and inform her classmates about the disorder as part of NHS.
She even served on Clinton-Massie’s student council, where Carruthers served as the head of the housing department when the school and surrounding area hosted the Ohio Association of Student Councils (OASC).
“Being in student council was fun,” Carruthers said. “I enjoyed being more involved with school activities. In all of the positions that I served, I felt a sense of responsibility to show other schools how Massie rolls. By getting good grades and being a leader, I feel like I showed other schools what Massie was about — creating disciplined schools and leaders. I felt like a role model. I have a younger sister whose friends looked up to me for everything. By being a good student and a role model, I was able to guide them in the right direction.”
Upon searching for her future college destination, Shawnee State ultimately proved to be an easy choice for Carruthers after seeing Steve Boone’s genuine and valuable approach to academia — along with SSU’s top-notch performance in graduation and placement in the healthcare fields of study.
“I actually reached out to him because I had already visited the school at softball camps prior, and asked him if he wanted to come watch me play,” Carruthers said. “We got to talking after he watched me play, and he ended up thinking that I’d be a good asset to the team. I knew that Shawnee State had great programs in the field of healthcare, with awesome graduation rates, and all the people that I met were so nice and enjoyable. I’d say that with the help of (Steve) Boone and the school’s programs, it made my decision to attend Shawnee State an easy decision to make. He answered any and every question that I had, and I really loved the fact that he put school first. He is one of the only college coaches that I have talked to that actually puts his players’ schoolwork first. He understands that for most of us, tennis is aiding us during our college years, and that our schoolwork is something that will be with us forever once we graduate. That is the most important thing that I noticed from him right off of the bat. He just wants to be updated on how we are doing and for us to be honest with him.”
In addition to the role that Carruthers has played on her squad throughout her first two seasons of play, she’s kept up her high standards in the classroom — notching a perfect 4.0 GPA in an environment that the student-athlete credits her college professors for creating across the board.
“Academically, I have had a continuous 4.0 with the help of my professors,” Carruthers said. “I like the fact that Shawnee State is a smaller school, and that my professors take pride and great care for their students’ progress. Athletically, I have had a wonderful time. I love how our conference is from a challenging standpoint because it pushes me to work even harder, which inevitably helps my work skills all around. I love my teammates, and will miss our seniors dearly since we didn’t get the opportunity to play with them one last time, but I still appreciate the time that we were able to play together.”
Over the final two years of her collegiate career, Carruthers’ goals are simply stated.
However, as she well knows, she’ll only have to continue working in order to maintain her strong performance.
“I hope to win the majority of our conference matches athletically,” Carruthers said. “Academically, I hope to keep straight-As.”