BIDWELL, Ohio — River Valley’s Jacob Kemper caught Eric Putnam’s eye in the offseason.
Almost nine months later, Kemper’s hand — and figuratively from his legs — put pen to paper on Wednesday with his official announcement of his commitment to run at Shawnee State University.
Kemper will continue competing in both cross country and track and field for the Bears, which are both coached by the veteran mentor Putnam.
Kemper’s signing ceremony took place in the River Valley High School media center, as the senior was flanked by his parents, James and Stephanie Kemper; Putnam and River Valley cross country coach Darin Smith.
Kemper is more recognized for his cross country accomplishments, which included qualifying for the Division II regional meet in October.
Last summer, he attended Shawnee State’s cross country camp at the Shawnee State Forrest in Scioto County — and quickly made an impression upon Putnam.
“I’ve always wanted to run for Shawnee (State). I went to their cross country camp this past summer and met Coach (Eric) Putnam. I just decided it would be a good choice for me to make,” said Kemper.
Putnam, who heavily recruits Southeastern Ohio anyway, kept Kemper in contact from then on.
Putnam said he was also encouraged to contact Kemper by Chris Roush, a 2005 River Valley graduate who enjoyed a strong running career at Shawnee State.
“I met Jacob through cross country camp this past summer at Shawnee State Forest. We ran together several times there and I just started keeping track of him. I was impressed with how well he ran,” said Putnam. “It’s a tough place to run because it’s really hilly. I just had my eye on him from that point on, and plus we (SSU) recruit heavily in this area. And Chris Roush told me to try and get him, so we did.”
Kemper finished 11th in the Division II district meet this past season, qualifying for the regional by placing in the top 16.
He ran the district race in 17 minutes and six seconds — an improvement from his 25th-place effort in 18:24 as a junior.
His personal-best time is 16 minutes and 51 seconds.
Smith coached Kemper for one year of cross country and now two seasons in track and field.
He said Kemper is just now starting to realize his full potential.
“My expectations for Jacob are high. He is just starting to get his mileage up to where it needs to be. Coach Putnam is going to bring his mileage up even higher,” said Smith. “He has a lot of potential, and once he gets his mileage up to where it needs to be, he is going to really improve.”
Putnam admitted that he may redshirt Kemper next fall, and immediately focus on track and field.
“We haven’t ruled out the possibility of redshirting Jacob his freshman cross country season and just run him in track, because I think he will have an immediate impact in track for us in the middle-distance races,” he said.
Kemper said he simply wants to run in college, regardless of whether it’s in cross country and/or track and field.
“I want to continue to progress as a runner and to reach my full potential. My mileage is going up higher than what I’ve had it before, and I just want to compete at a collegiate level,” he said.
Kemper plans to major in Information Systems Management.
Paul Boggs can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2106