GREENVILLE – Ohio’s all-time best female high school pole vaulter in the history of the State, Greenville’s Riley Hunt signed Wednesday to continue her education while pole vaulting for the nation’s premier Division-I pole vaulting university, the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, a member of an elite Power Five Conference.
“I am so blessed for this opportunity and I couldn’t be more thankful,” Hunt told the more than 100 family and friends gathered in the GHS cafeteria.
“It is a great thing for our school, it’s a great thing for Riley,” GHS Principal Stan Hughes said. “Super proud of Riley. The support you see is indicative of what we see at Greenville and Greenville City Schools. The support that we get for our athletes and our schools and the support that this young lady gets and deserves is just unbelievable.”
“This is the biggest signing in the history of our track program,” stated veteran Green Wave head track and field coach, Bill Plessinger. “We get very few kids to go D-I let alone to an SEC power. People around here may not know Arkansas Track and Field – The University of Arkansas contends for a National Championship every year so Riley is going to the “elite of the elite” as far as colleges are concerned.”
“Not to rule out any other sports, but it’s one of the biggest signings in the history of Greenville High School and definitely the track program,” added Plessinger. “Never, ever have we had anything like this.”
“What an awesome night for Riley to have an opportunity to go on and continue her education and athletic career at a place like Arkansas is just tremendous,” said Greenville athletic director, Aaron Shaffer. “The hard work and dedication she has put in for who knows how long, night after night, day after day, working to get better at her chosen craft, it’s just an awesome night to be able to be a part of this and see her succeed and do the things that she has always dreamed of doing.”
“Pure determination is kind of the words that come to mind,” Greenville pole vault coach, Micah Coblentz stated. “Riley has always had a hunger to train, to practice and to try to be the absolute best – and she has achieved all of that. I am very proud of her.”
Arkansas has always been at the top of Hunt’s list but was headed to the SEC’s Auburn Tigers until just days and hours before signing with the Razorbacks.
“It was down between Auburn and Arkansas,” noted Hunt. “I was originally going to Auburn but then Arkansas called. Arkansas has always been my dream and…oh my-gosh, how amazing, like this opportunity is right here, like my dream is now a reality. I’m so ecstatic to be able to pursue my dreams.”
“I hope to inspire kids,” Hunt added. “Even though you make a dream, no matter how many people tell you can’t achieve that dream – you really can.”
“As far as girls pole vaulting goes, Arkansas has been on top of the college scene,” shared Coblentz. “It’s been a crazy ride with the recruiting process. So many great coaches out there that are asking for her.”
“Riley has always wanted, has always talked about Arkansas and it wasn’t really a reality until a couple days ago,” he added, “so all the dreams have kind of come true and Arkansas is getting a good one.”
Already owning the state’s highest girl’s mark going into last season’s state meet in Columbus, Hunt easily won the event while breaking her own state record with a jump of 13’7” to win the 2018-2019 OHSAA D-I girls state championship.
“Coach Coblentz and I both saw it coming,” said Plessinger. “Riley picked up on vaulting at a young age. In junior high she was the Junior High State Champion and it’s been a progression. A two-time defending indoor champion – probably three-peat this year. She will be two-time State Champion in the outdoor. Riley has rewritten the record books as far as girl’s pole vault in the State of Ohio.”
The accolades continued to pour in on the Lady Wave record-setting pole vaulter at the Wednesday night signing.
“It’s not very often we get something as special as this,” said Hughes. “When you get to this level of athlete, it’s such a rarity that you have to continue to watch and support and promote that as much as possible so that we can see all the successes so that the other students can see that kind of success and what it takes to be this level of an athlete.”
“Riley is absolutely a wonderful student,” continued Hughes. “She is very well rounded. She is in orchestra and she’s in art. She takes some of the most difficult classes we offer here at Greenville. Riley was the Homecoming Queen this year so clearly she has a fan group, a support group and people know her and like her for all the right reasons because she is a great kid, a great person and a fine outstanding member of our high school and community.”
“Obviously there is talent involved but you can’t say enough about how hard Riley has worked,” Shaffer said. “If you really want to do something and you set your mind to it, you put some goals is place and you work and strive towards those goals, you can succeed and Riley is a perfect example of it both athletically, academically and socially.”
“Riley is as awesome a kid as you could ever imagine both in school, in athletics and community minded,” continued Shaffer. “She is one of the nicest kids I have ever been around so I am really excited for her and her family and for our athletic department to be able to point to her as an example of what you can do if you really put your mind to something.”
“Riley is the most focused, she is a great girl, she has goals and she hasn’t missed a goal yet,” Plessinger said. “Her next goal is Paris 2024 (Olympics) and that is the next thing we are preparing for because I don’t put it past her that there is anything she can’t do.”
Future Olympics are not just in the back of Hunts mind, but a realistic goal the Greenville senior has in her sights.
“They just sent out the Olympic standard which is 15’1-1/2” so my goal is at the end of indoor 14’7” and then outdoor at state hit 15’2” or 15’-4” and then qualify for the Olympic trials,” stated Hunt. “I will probably not make it to the Olympics but just get an Olympic trial under my belt. It’s going to be a lot of hard work and a challenge but it’s going to keep me hungry. If I don’t make it (2024), that will just give me even more drive to get me to make it to the next one.”
“When most kids say they are going to the Olympics you just go; ‘yeh, right’, but I honestly believe in my heart Riley will be in the Olympics,” said Coach Plessinger. “She will work to that point… if she doesn’t it won’t be because of the lack of effort or trying or hard work, so if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t but it would not surprise me one bit if we see her in the Olympics in 2024 – just the kind of girl she is, the kind of athlete.”
“Sandy Morris trains at Arkansas,” shared Hunt. “She is an Olympian, multi-times, she has been there. I will be training at the same place as her and I am just super excited for the opportunities that Arkansas has.”
With all the awards, accolades and now an SEC signing with the Nation’s premier program, one would think the Greenville senior’s high school career is completed – not the case. Hunt still has her senior season of track still to come.
“Riley has another year – we have big plans this year,” Plessinger said. “She has had a great career to this point and we have another whole year. She is probably going to be the first girl to go 14-foot.”
Hunt used the final moments to thank her many supporters and family.
“I can’t thank my family enough for being so supportive, my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister, grandparents, aunts, uncles, just everyone in my family,” said Hunt. “I want to thank all of my coaches. They have just been so supportive and have made the decision a little easier. I can’t thank Coach Coblentz enough. Without him I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
“And my family,” continued Hunt. “It has definitely been a rough couple of days because of a last minute switch, but I am so honored to have such a great family that supports me and loves me so much.”
“I want to thank the community and everyone for their support” Hunt concluded. “I am so blessed to be a part of this amazing community. I love being a representative of our community just to show that Greenville can be great and that it is great.”
Contact Darke County Media Sports Editor Gaylen Blosser at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-548-3330