CENTENARY, Ohio — By making the choice to compete in college, Gallia Academy’s Mary Watts will be reaching two goals.
Not only will Watts continue her standout running career, but she will continue a family tradition.
That’s because Watts, as officially announced on Thursday, will continue her cross country and track and field career for Otterbein University —located in the Columbus suburb of Westerville.
Watts, a four-time regional cross country meet qualifier and Division II girls state track and field meet qualifier as a sophomore, will join the Cardinals’ programs of head coach Dara Ford.
Watts’ signing ceremony took place in the Gallia Academy High School Media Center, as she was flanked by her parents Randy and Betsy Watts; Gallia Academy High School cross country and girls track and field head coach Todd May; and Gallia Academy High School Athletic Director Adam Clark.
Watts said her commitment to Otterbein encompasses all three sports seasons, as she will run cross country in the fall —followed by indoor track and field in the winter and outdoor track and field in the spring.
“It’s a three-season commitment,” she said. “I’m very excited for the opportunities that they have and the location in Westerville. Coach (Dara) Ford is very nice and the team is progressing very well in recent years. They have a very bright future ahead of them and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
Although, as she admitted, the decision between attending either Otterbein or Malone University in Canton had her “torn”.
“I was torn between those two schools for a long time,” said Watts.
As a decision day approached, she said she turned to May for guidance, who told her she “talked about Otterbein a lot more.”
In addition, Watts raved about the Science program at Otterbein, as she plans to major in Biology.
She also has received two academic scholarships from the school, as Otterbein is a member of the Ohio Athletic Conference.
As far as running, Watts is a four-time Division II regional cross country qualifier —including individually her final three years.
Her personal record time in the 5K run is 18 minutes and 54 seconds.
She also qualified for the indoor state track and field meet her final three seasons —and is already a one-time outdoor state meet qualifier.
Two years ago — and a year after her older sister Hannah placed third in the Division II girls 800m run — Watts was 10th in the one-mile (1,600m) run.
Hannah Watts is a two-time All-American at Hillsdale C0llege in Michigan, while Luke Watts placed fifth in the boys pole vault in the Division II state meet in 2008.
“She is doing the proud family tradition,”said May.
However, Watts’ work ethic is arguably her best attribute.
“Mary is just an outstanding worker. She has earned everything she has through hard work,” said May. “She has meant stability to our program that is going to be hard to replace. She has never sat out a meet, she has had a remarkable career of staying healthy and being durable. Mary probably doesn’t need to run in college if she didn’t want to, because she is very smart. All of the Watts kids are really motivated in the classroom. She decided she wanted to run, and I think Otterbein is a good fit for her. She is ready to be a college athlete. And I think she is going to be one of those people that continues to get faster as she gets older.”
In outdoor track and field, Watts excels in the distance events (800m, 1,600m and 3,200m) — and also runs the one-lap 400m dash.
She is also a key cog for the Blue Angels’ 4x800m and 4x400m relay teams, and actively high jumps as well.
“Her potential is limitless. She is one of the best high jumpers around, and doesn’t really have to work at it because she is so athletic. Then she can run anything ranging from the 400m to the 3,200m and two relays (4x400m and 4x800m),” said May. “I think she is faster this year, and I think her turnover to shorter distances is going to be better. The OVC (Ohio Valley Conference) is going to be happy to see her graduate,” said May. “Mary has been such a steady force in running for Gallia Academy. If you figure out her scoring from her freshman year to her senior year, she probably has one of the highest average point totals for four years. She always runs three or four races and all in good times.”
Watts believes her senior season of track, by far, will be her best.
“I’ve had a bit of a rough patch the last few years for running. I’m hoping I can break out of that this season, and continue to move forward throughout my college years,” she said.
In addition to distance events, Watts said she plans to run the steeplechase at Otterbein.
Indeed, it’s just another of the opportunities Otterbein has to offer her, as she continues to run —and continues the family tradition.
Speaking of which, she thanked her parents and her family for their unwavering and longtime support, as well as that of her coaches and teammates.
“It’s been a great experience for the past four years of high school, but I’m really excited about Otterbein and the opportunities there,” said Watts.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106