CAMDEN — A trio of athletes from Preble Shawnee recently committed to continue their athletic and academic careers at the college level.
Michaela Ruark, Elise Walker and Camron Neal will pursue their dreams of playing softball, high jumping and wrestling, while furthering their education.
Ruark, the Arrows starting center fielder on the softball team, will play next season at Miami University Hamilton. Ruark started her high school career at Loveland before transferring to Preble Shawnee prior to her junior year.
“She’s the result of what happens when a girl dedicates her summer’s to softball. She’s an excellent base runner. She’s an excellent center fielder. She’s a pretty consistent hitter. She’s just an all-around good teammate. She just knows the game real well and she’s a great kid to coach,” said Jeff Lynch, Preble Shawnee’s softball coach.
Ruark, who’s played for the Cincy Slammers during the summer season, said playing at the college level is something she has always wanted.
“I’ve always wanted to play softball at the college level. When I started looking for college’s I looked further away at first. I decided recently I wanted to stay home with my family and play somewhere. Miami-Hamilton just felt like home when I walked on campus,” she said.
She played two season’s at Loveland. She played catcher as a freshman and moved to second base her sophomore year. She didn’t begin playing center field until she moved to Preble Shawnee.
“Coming here was a new start so I had to pick a new spot. Center field just kind of called my name and I just stayed there. I love it,” she said.
She said the transition to a new school wasn’t that difficult since she knew a lot of people in the district because her step-siblings went to Preble Shawnee.
“I absolutely love this school. My step-brothers and sisters have been going here so I knew everyone coming in. I didn’t have to go through finding new friends. I love the small-town feel. Everyone knows everyone. It was just more home here than it was at Loveland,” she said.
Ruark said she plans on majoring in biology and is looking to get her Master’s in Athletic Training.
Walker, a state-place and three-time state qualifier in the high jump, will join Miami University’s track team in the fall.
Walker said Miami was a perfect fit since her sister currently attends the Oxford campus and her parents went there as well.
“That’s where my sister goes. That’s where my parents went. I wanted to go there to. It’s a great school,” she said.
Walker was being recruited by other schools for volleyball as well.
“I was looking at another school to play volleyball and track. It was always between volleyball and track. I do love volleyball so it was hard to give that up.” she said. “Miami’s closer and it was cheaper and it’s D-1.”
Walker, a multi-sport athlete in high school, said concentrating on just one sport in college should be less stressful.
“I feel like its going to be a lot less stress on me. I don’t want all of my time just being sports, sports, sports all the time,” she said.
Walker said she is undecided on a major at this time.
“I’ll figure it out,” she said.
“She’s a wonderful kid. A great athlete. Great student. Great kid that does whatever you ask her to do. It’s been really awesome to watch her get better and better. She wanted to jump somewhere and she picked track over volleyball and basketball,” said Preble Shawnee track coach Stefanie Hurley. “That normally doesn’t happen. She’s a great volleyball player. She was a great basketball player. She took basketball off this past season to concentrate on school and get ready for track season. We’re really going to miss her.”
Neal, one of only two two-time state placers in school history, will be attending Ellsworth Junior College in Iowa Falls, Iowa to continue he wrestling career.
Neal said he is excited about the opportunity to attend the two-year school and hopes to land at a Division I school once his time at Ellsworth is completed.
“It will be fun. I’ve wanted to wrestle in college since eighth grade,” Neal said.
He is going to a program which finished fifth in the nation last season and is consistently a top-5 program.
“The first thing that sticks out right away when you watch him wrestle is his athletic ability and speed. He’s just a very rare athlete all around,” said Travis Darroquillo, an assistant coach at Ellsworth. “He’s pretty soft spoken and he comes from a great family, great environment. He’s got a great support system. That’s the kind of things we like to look at. We feel like he is going to fit perfect into our system. With the addition of Camron we think its going to help push us to a national championship caliber team next year.
Darroquillo said the program traditionally helps student-athletes move on to bigger schools.
“We’ll have him for two years and hopefully we can put him into a school that fits him perfectly. We have kids go D-I and we have some kids go NAIA, Division II,” Darroquillo said. “Kind of just what the right fit for the kid is.”
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH