WOODSTOCK, Ga. --- It was a season that was to be filled with so much promise. Fresh off a region title and a 10th place Class AAA state meet finish in the long jump in 2009, Eric Cloy Jr. had his sights set high for his senior campaign at Creekview last spring.
The year started just as he had hoped - landing top seven finishes in the long jump, triple jump and high jump at the Creekview Relays. Two weeks later, the Grizzlies traveled to the Cobb EMC Invitational, where he earned top-10 showings in the triple jump and 110-meter hurdles and won the long jump with a performance of 20 feet, 5 inches. The following Saturday, at the Sharptop Invitational in Jasper, Cloy stepped it up again, posting a 39-09.5 to place second in the triple jump, clearing 19-09.5 to win the long jump, and running the 110 hurdles in 18.20 seconds for fifth.
But just as Cloy's season began, it came to an end. Competing in a home tri-meet on March 13, 2010, Cloy sustained a severe MCL strain in his right knee, putting the Grizzlies' standout on crutches and sidelining him for the remainder of year.
Fortunately for the Ball Ground native, his future was secure, having signed early with Lees-McRae College - an NCAA Division II program in North Carolina - though, coming off the injury, Cloy admitted he did not expect to contribute much to the Bobcats' 2010-11 campaign.
"Honestly, when I first got there, I thought the season would be more about me getting my knee back in shape," said Cloy, the son of Catina and Eric Cloy, Sr. "But once I started training with Coach (Ley) Fletcher and going through his workout routines, I didn't even think about my knee. Everything was just kind of taking care of itself and that allowed me to go out and do what I do best, which is jump."
And jump he did, as Cloy provided an impressive one-two punch for LMC with fellow jumper Corey Alexander, a senior from Atlanta. Following the indoor season, the duo, along with six other Bobcats, were named to the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Association all-Southeast Region Indoor Team.
"I was extremely surprised," Cloy said of receiving the honor. "The whole indoor season, I was pretty much doing athletic rehab, trying to get my form down, and learning what to do. There was just a lot of technical stuff that I had to deal with. "I really didn't think I was going to be able to contribute as much as I did."
His contributions, however, did not stop there, as he opened the outdoor season with a 6.20-meter jump (20 feet, 4.25 inches) to place eighth at the Lenoir-Rhyne University Power Sox Invitational. Cloy followed that performance with a 10th-place showing in the triple jump (11.78 meters) at the Asics Classic at Winthrop University and a seventh-place triple jump (12.30m) at the Wofford Terrier Relay in Spartanburg, S.C. Then came his breakout performance, as he equaled his season-best in the long jump (6.25m) and charted his top triple jump (12.53m) performance of the year to place fifth in both events at the Conference Carolinas Championships on his home track in Banner Elk.
"I was definitely surprised with what I was able to put up in that meet," said Cloy, Creekview's record holder in both the long jump (21 feet, 5.25 inches) and triple jump (42 feet, 4.75 inches). "Seeing some of the big-named athletes from our conference for the first time, I was nervous and didn't think I was going to do all that well. But to go out there among all those juniors and seniors and place fifth, I was excited."
Complementing those showings, Cloy went on to place 12th in both events at the NCAA Division II Southeast Championships, jumping 6.19 meters in the long jump and 12.21 meters in the triple.
According to Cloy, what made his immediate impact possible came down to a pair of factors -learning the correct techniques and developing a bond with Alexander. "My technique in high school was pretty much me just running and jumping," said Cloy, who took up the sport as a sophomore at Creekview to stay in shape for football. "The coaches told me my success was based on raw talent.
"When I got to [Lees-McRae], everything was new to me, and the first couple of weeks of training all we did was technique, technique, technique. We didn't worry about our distances. Then, when I went to meets, at the times I wasn't jumping, Coach Fletcher had me sitting down watching the other jumpers and taking notes. It was a slow process, but I felt like I started to get everything down by the end of the indoor season and my marks (in outdoor) started to show my talent."
As for Alexander's impact: "Even though we were always competing against one another, he was my biggest mentor," Cloy said. "He was always there to help me and made my transition from high school to college athlete a lot easier. "He told me to focus on myself and not worry about what other guys say they're jumping or what results they're posting -just be sure I'm where I need to be to compete, and the rest will take care of itself."
With his freshman campaign behind him, Cloy, who excelled in the classroom as well and made the Dean's List for the spring semester with a 3.97 GPA, believes his future with the Bobcats is bright.
"I have nothing but excitement about my future at LMC," he said. "I have a great coaching staff, great teammates, and great talent around that's going to push me to continue to make myself better.
"With each year, I know there are going to be more challenges, more reason to prove myself, and more reason to improve on what I did the previous year."