So long as Van-Far senior Ryan Nelson stays healthy through baseball season, he will accomplish something few of the district’s athletes can share.
Nelson is the first since basketball standout Mike Smith — who recently was drafted by the NBA D-League’s Iowa Energy before being sidelined by injury — to letter in three sports in his four-year athletic career at Van-Far.
“Watching those 2004 guys made me want to play to the best of my abilities,” Nelson said, noting the Van-Far varsity boys basketball squad’s 2004 state championship run led by Smith. “I grew up watching them.”
“It’s great seeing (Smith) go as far as he has, especially because he is from Vandalia,” he said. “A lot of guys aspire to accomplish what he has and move on to the college level.”
Nelson first lettered in football before adding a second letter in basketball.
“I just really put my time in the weight room, especially in summer,” he said.
Nelson said he didn’t have much field time in baseball before the chance injury of a fellow Indian landed him in right field for the first time.
“It was a totally new position to me,” he said, adding that with the help of his coaches he quickly learned the position. “I was able to do pretty well.”
However, Nelson said the action of basketball makes the sport his favorite.
“Being in a small school, you get to chance to play in multiple sports,” he said. “You can be as active as you want. At the same time, it’s really hard to be good at what you do when you’re involved in other things.”
On top of sports, Nelson stays busy in multiple organizations both in and outside of Van-Far. He is a part of Van-Far’s FFA, National Honor Society and A+ programs, as well as 4H outside of the district. Nelson plans to study agronomy at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. He said D-I sports at MU likely won’t be an option. But the school offers other opportunities.
As for baseball, Nelson (3B/P) hopes for a successful season to close his high school experience
“I hope we find the pitching we need,” he said.