BIDWELL, Ohio — He has a good understanding of his chosen future.
Senior Nathaniel Abbott has spent four years at River Valley High School building himself into a top-notch distance runner, but that success didn’t come overnight.
Abbott — a four-year starter for the cross country and distance events in track — has had to work his way to the top with a lot of effort and a lot of preparation, particularly during his freshman and sophomore seasons.
However, after building a solid foundation over his first two years at the varsity level, Abbott’s distance career has since taken a turn of historic proportions as he currently owns the school record in both cross country and in the 1600m event in track.
Abbott has also enjoyed a great deal of regular season and postseason successes, having been a three-time regional qualifier and three-time All-TVC performer in cross country — as well as a regional qualifier in the 1600m run last spring.
It’s those kind of accolades that allowed a big door to open up for Abbott as the senior will be continuing his track and cross country careers at the collegiate level after signing a letter of intent with Marshall University on Wednesday, April 11, on the RVHS stage.
To his credit, Abbott acknowledges that an opportunity to compete at the collegiate level is something truly special. He also is still somewhat in shock that he is has a chance to compete at the Division I level, something he had never really thought possible — until heading into his senior year.
Abbott — who plans on majoring in Engineering — also knows that in being given this rare chance, he really needs to put something together that will stand the test of four years of rigorous effort.
“When I learned that I might have an opportunity to compete for Marshall last summer, it really pushed me that much more to better myself as a competitor. I’ve always worked to get better over my career, but knowing that Marshall was showing interest really helped pushed me to get where I am,” Abbott said. “There aren’t many people that get a Division I opportunity from the Appalachia area, so it’s an honor and a blessing to get a chance like this. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here and there’s a lot more hard work ahead, but I’m really looking forward to spending the next four years competing for the Thundering Herd.”
RVHS cross country coach Darin Smith is excited to see an opportunity like this show up for Abbott, given the amount of work that he has put in to make himself and the Raiders better on a year-to-year basis.
Smith also believes that, like him, Marshall is about to reap the rewards of Abbott’s work ethic and dedication.
“Nathaniel is the type of athlete that has gotten better and better each and every year through hard work, but he’s definitely worked to get where he is,” Smith said. “I think Nathaniel has just started to reach his full potential, and Marshall is definitely getting an athlete that still has his best years in front of him.”
Besides the proximity to home, Abbott notes that the official visit to campus was enough to sell him on being a member of the Thundering Herd.
Abbott, however, adds that it had more to do with visiting the academic facilities than just being stuck on the athletic side of things.
“When we started visiting the campus, everything about just felt right,” Abbott said. “Everybody was very welcoming, and I could tell it was going to be a lot of fun when I first stepped foot into their Engineering building. I’m really looking forward to continuing my studies there.”
After missing out on all-league and regionals as a freshman in cross country, Abbott has done nothing but excel since learning the ropes as a freshman.
Smith really believes that Abbott is headed to an ideal place to continue his career, mainly because has the possibility of mimicking what he has accomplished as a member of the Silver and Black.
“I think the good thing for Nathaniel is that when he gets to Marshall, he won’t be the best runner they have and he’ll have to work his way through to get better,” Smith said. “It’s good because he’s not afraid of the work. It will push him to get better, and that’s something he’s done throughout his career. He’s not afraid of challenges.”
Abbott is proud of what he’s been able to accomplish during his time at River Valley, but he also is quick to point out that he has not done all of this on his own.
In fact, he believes that everyone in the River Valley community has played a small part in his success — and that those small pieces have turned into something much bigger.
“Besides my parents and family, there have been a lot of other people that have helped me get to this point,” Abbott said. “Good friends that have always been there for me and good coaches that have pushed me to become better. River Valley has a lot to do with this moment … and I am grateful.”
Nathaniel — who carries a 3.75 grade-point average — is the son of Matt and Heather Abbott of Gallipolis.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.