ARCANUM – The University of Rio Grande heavily recruited Isaac Stephens, and it paid off as the Arcanum senior committed to the RedStorm on Tuesday afternoon.
Stephens, the son of Matt and Kati Stephens, said Rio Grande’s recruiting really caught his attention and made him feel comfortable with the school.
“Their recruiting was really good,” Stephens said. “Their coach came out and talked to me at cross country meets, made the drive down there. He’s put a lot of effort into getting me down to campus, talking with the team, looking around and getting to know the college really well.”
Jordan Cunningham, an assistant cross country and track and field coach at Rio Grande, said the RedStorm were thrilled to get a commitment from Stephens, who they think can contribute right away to the cross country and track teams.
“I think he’s going to step in and be an immediate impact for us,” Cunningham said. “I know he’s not a high mileage guy in high school so our biggest challenge is going to be to not break him, bringing him up slowly with mileage and preparing him to run the 8K as opposed to the 5K. I think as a mid-distance guy, he’s a little better as a mid-distance runner right now. Same thing in track … he’s going to be an immediate contributor for the team, the program. We’re excited. We can’t wait to get him on campus. We think he’s a great kid.”
Stephens, who is unsure what he’ll study in college, has been contemplating running at the college level for a few years now.
His high school coach, Chris Kessler, encouraged him to move forward with his aspirations and pursue running in college.
“We knew he had the ability academically and as an athlete to go on to college,” Kessler said. “All the letters started rolling in and Rio really took interest in him during cross country season and really communicated with him.”
Rio Grande competes in the River States Conference, which is part of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The RedStorm won the league’s men’s and women’s cross country championships this past fall, qualifying for the NAIA nationals. They had three athletes advance to the indoor track and field national championships in March.
Cunningham is encouraged by Stephens’ work ethic and sees an athlete poised to become even stronger in college.
“He’s a grinder,” the Rio Grande coach said. “He likes to work. Training every day doesn’t bother him. If you’ve got somebody that will do that and are willing to put in the work they’re going to be successful at just about anything.”
Stephens is working hard to finish his high school career strong, Kessler said, and hopefully make it to the Ohio High School Athletic Association state track and field meet.
“Isaac, he’s just like the Energizer Bunny,” the Arcanum coach said. “He just keeps going.”
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.
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