By Rob Kiser
RUSSIA — Caleb Ball would probably tell you they saved the best of the Ball brothers for last.
But, he would also be quick to tell you he wouldn’t be the runner he is without older brothers Chris and Colin.
Ball, the son of Mark and Deanna Ball, is currently completing his senior season on the Russia track and field team and when it ends, it will complete a decade of excellence wearing Russia uniforms for the Ball family.
“Really, I started running with the Russia kids club in fourth grade,” Caleb Ball said. “Growing up and watching my older brothers (Chris, Colin) run at state, that was a motivator for me. I wanted to do the same thing.”
Ball has continued the Raider tradition with style and on Thursday his hard work was rewarded when he signed his letter of intent to run cross country for Ohio University.
“I always wanted to run in college,” Ball said. “I really like the school and the coaches. It was a place where I felt really comfortable and I think it is a place that gives me the opportunity to be the runner I want to be. And my dad went to OU.”
Ball had much success at Russia, leading the team to success and running at state each of the last four years and steadily improving.
As a freshman, he finished 92nd at state with a time of 17:29.55.
As a sophomore he was 54th with a time of 17:09.54 and followed it his junior year with a 58th-place finish in 17:01.60.
As a senior, he just missed All-Ohio honors, finishing 27th with a time of 16:31.6.
“I think when I was in eighth grade, I realized I had a chance to be pretty good,” Ball said. “I just kept working hard at it.”
Russia cross country coach Doug Foster saw the same potential for Ball.
“All three of the kids have a great work ethic, which comes from the family,” Foster said. “Caleb was the smoothest runner of the three boys. You could see that.”
He had a fast time of 16:16 last fall.
“He (Caleb) Ball just kept working hard,” Foster said. “He ended up with the third fastest time in school history.”
On the track, Ball still has some unfinished business — getting to the state meet.
“I really want to get to state in the 800,” Ball said. “I am hoping to get to state in the 800 and 4×400.”
He was close a year ago.
“He was really close to getting to state in the 800 last year,” Russia boys track and field coach Dan Schafer said. “He peaked out at 1:59 and we are hoping he can get down to around 1:57 this year. We also have several relay teams that could make it.”
He is not surprised by Ball’s success either.
“Like he said, it just took him a little while to grow into his body,” Schafer said. “But, you could see how good a runner he was going to be.”
There will be a familiar face at OU. Newton standout Brady McBride has already signed with the Bobcats.
“I know him a little bit from running with him and trying to beat him,” Ball said with a smile. “I am really looking forward to getting to know him.”
Ball is the third runner from the Russia senior class (Molly Kearns, Lauren Heaton) to sign to run D-I next year.
“This is six kids we have had go D-I in the last five years,” Foster said. “We have just been really blessed with some kids who have worked hard and are very talented.”
Ball will also run track at OU, although it is an unofficial sport because of Title IX.
“They have five unofficial meets,” Ball said. “I like cross country because you start and when you stop you are done. But, I also love running the 800 in track.”
And Foster said there is a lot of potential still to be realized.
“The key will be him working hard to get to be the best runner he can be,” Foster said.
Like he has the last four years en route to becoming the “Best of the Balls”.
Rob Kiser is Sports Editor for the Daily Call. He can be reached at (937) 451-3334.