Conner Lee participated in just one event Friday at a regional track meet, taking third in the 800-meter run with a time of 2:04.
It was a relief for the Little Snake River Valley senior’s opponents to see him somewhere other than at the top of the podium.
Lee, whose prep career is coming to a close — Snake River finishes the regional meet Saturday, then has just the Wyoming state meet remaining — has enjoyed a ridiculous level of success during his four years as a Rattler. The senior middle-distance runner has earned 12 varsity letters, been a part of seven state championship teams and has a shot at adding more when the state track meet rolls around.
As a wide receiver and free safety for the LSRV six-man football team, he was a state champion as a sophomore and junior, then a runner-up last fall. Then he led the Rattlers to a state title in basketball, their third in a row, as the starting point guard.
Now he hopes to be a part of a third-straight team championship with the Snake River boys track team, while maybe taking home a few individual firsts as well.
As a result of that success, Lee was unanimously voted as the recipient of the Jake Clarke Award for Carbon County male athlete of the year by the Carbon County Quarterback’s Club.
He said it was an honor, especially to receive the award as a Class 1A athlete from Baggs, Wyo.
“It was kind of shocking just because there’s some good athletes in Carbon County,” Lee said. “(Being from a small town) gave it a lot more meaning. There are 3A and 4A schools going against a 1A guy.”
But Lee’s accolades and success barely scratch the surface of his ability. Entering high school, he hadn’t lost a cross-country race in three years and was looking forward to four more years of being among the best in the state. But Wyoming introduced six-man football his freshman year and that became the boys fall sport at LSRV, so Lee had to make adjustments.
“He would have been a four-time all-stater in cross-country until we switched to football,” basketball and track coach Paul Prestrud said. “He was the one kid I felt kind of sorry for when they made that change. But he put 30 pounds on and has done well in football.”
Snake River has a smaller track team this year, and Lee was asked to try out long jump for the first time to help them score points. On his first jump, Prestrud said, he went beyond 20 feet.
“It kind of surprised me, what I actually did in long jump,” Lee said.
But athletic ability is not always enough to get by in high school sports at the highest level. Lee has put the time in to get where he is, Prestrud said.
“The thing that probably sticks out (about Lee) for me is his character and his discipline to do what has to be done,” he said. “When you have the natural ability, if you don’t work at it, it doesn’t go very far. He’s always put the work in. He’s just one of those kids you wish you had 10 of.”
To Lee, putting in the extra time in the weight room or at practice always has been a part of the deal. Having great teammates alongside him all four years didn’t hurt his cause, either.
“The group I’ve been stuck with in high school, we’ve been together since third grade,” he said. “It makes it really fun and it really pushed us to accomplish big things. You’ve got to get in the gym and you’ve got to run and give it everything. We were able to do that.”
Since his sophomore season Lee has competed with All-State performers in football and basketball and state record-holders on the track. Prestrud said he sees Lee as being in the same group of athletes as the best Snake River has ever seen.
“I think he’s right there with them,” Prestrude said. “We’ve been fortunate to have all these guys jammed into about four classes, and (Conner’s) right there with any of them as far as ability goes.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or firstname.lastname@example.org