January 14, 2004
Cross country, track athlete Cowley's January Student of Month
Jake Conley knows a thing or two about adjusting. He's had to do plenty of it during his 19 1/2 years.
First, Conley's parents, Howard and Susan, moved Jake, his brother Jordan and sisters Rachel and Sarah from Washington state to northwest Arkansas when Jake was in middle school. Then came Jake's adjustment from a senior class of more than 500 students at Rogers, Ark., the state's largest high school, to Cowley County Community College. Finally, Jake had to adjust to a new cross country and track coach at Cowley after his freshman season.
But the sophomore communications major has taken it all in stride. Recently, he was chosen as Cowley's January Student of the Month.
"I was really surprised and happy," Conley said when he was told the news. "It's a real honor to be chosen as a student of the month. I think that person is well-balanced, has the ability to get along with people, is involved on campus and gets good grades academically."
Conley fits the description. He is a two-year member of the Tigers' cross country and track and field teams, is a Student Ambassador, staff writer for the Cowley Press student newspaper, and is a member of Phi Theta Kappa.
Twice he's been named an Academic All-American and three times to the Dean's Honor Roll.
His athletic ability is what brought Conley to Cowley.
"I was firing off e-mails to coaches in Kansas because I had heard that junior college athletics in Kansas had a very good reputation," Conley said. "I started e-mailing coaches, and they were replying back to me. (Former Cowley) Coach Casey Belknap e-mailed me back, I came for a visit, and he offered me a scholarship."
Conley visited Cowley's main campus for the first time in January 2002 and signed in April.
"I really liked it," he said. "I liked how small it was and how it was right here in the city and not stranded out in nowhere."
The fact that Cowley was building a new outdoor track and field facility didn't hurt, either.
"This has been a great stepping stone for me," Conley said. "It definitely will get me ready for a four-year university."
Conley helped the Tiger cross country team to a third-place finish at last fall's National Junior College Athletic Association championships. His 11th-place individual finish earned him honorable mention NJCAA All-America and Coaches Association All-America status. He will continue his career at Harding University, a private NCAA Division II school in Searcy, Ark. He signed with Harding last semester.
Running is all Conley wanted to do coming out of Rogers, where he was an all-state performer and team captain.
"I really wanted to get a scholarship for my running," he said. "The four-year schools weren't working for me. They weren't offering me anything. I decided overall that it was going to be better for me to go the community college route."
And Conley is glad he did. Since being chosen as a Student Ambassador at Cowley, Conley said his personality has changed.
"I've been a lot more determined than in high school to go out and meet new people," he said. "Being an ambassador has helped me talk to people. It's helped me with my confidence."
Conley praised his parents for their influence in his life.
"I seriously don't know what I'd do without them," Conley said. "They help with my running, my school. They really have taken care of me."
And, with just a 3 1/2-hour drive from Arkansas City, they've been able to watch Jake run in some meets.
Conley, whose hobbies include sleeping, watching television, watching movies with friends, playing video games and chatting via e-mail, said he's always been interested in communications. What he'd really like to do someday is get into public relations.
"If that doesn't work, I'd like to get into broadcasting," Conley said.
Conley said he's looking forward to his sophomore season of track.
"I just want to set as many personal records as possible," he said. "I hope our team improves from last year's performance. Hopefully, we can have more people make it to nationals, which would be great."