It took Sydney Conley almost a year to accept her family's move from Indianapolis to Fayetteville (Ark.)
she had lived in Fayetteville until she was 5 years old, most of her
formative years had been spent in Indiana, and she was looking forward
to her freshman year at Lawrence North (Indianapolis). Just three
weeks into the school year, however, the family moved to be closer to
friends and relatives.
"I wasn't really too happy to move back,"
Conley told MaxPreps. "We had a phenomenal (track) team and I was
mostly excited about our 4x100 relay."
Her mother, Rene' Conley,
conceded, "It was a huge adjustment period for Sydney. At one point she
had called a friend to see if she could move back and live with her. She
is very resourceful. She wanted to go to school and be with friends.
Once she started high school (sophomore year), she came into her own in
track and basketball."
Sydney definitely has blossomed at
Fayetteville. Until last weekend the 5-foot-10 senior had the nation's
No. 1 long jump of 20 feet, 3 inches.
She is extremely versatile
and will be competing in six events Thursday during the Class 7A state
track meet. That versatility earned her a track scholarship to the
University of Alabama.
Sydney was destined to be an athlete, as
her father, Mike Conley, was the Olympic triple jump champion in 1992
and her older brother, Mike Jr., is a standout guard for the Memphis
Grizzlies of the NBA. She is the only girl in a family of four but never
takes a backseat to any of her brothers.
Mike Jr., who is 6
years older, said, "I never knew what I expected from her, because she
was so good at so many things. I've been very proud of her and just wish
I had more time to come and watch her. She's got the cockiness and
arrogance and can back it up."
She may have learned her most valuable lesson as a sixth-grader, because poor grades kept her from competing in track.
"My mind wasn't really there," she admitted.
started competing in basketball and track as a seventh-grader, but just
played basketball more as a conditioner for track. Her freshman year
was quite frustrating, because high school in Fayetteville does not
start until 10th grade.
"We didn't really know much about her,"
varsity coach Drew Yoakum said. "That whole class was special and Sydney
just topped it off. Everybody knew the last name, so she had some
pressure on her."
Sydney was the only sophomore to make the
varsity basketball team and was a part-time starter on a Class 7A state
runner-up. She played the post and her ability to touch the rim enabled
her to be the team's No. 1 rebounder and No. 4 scorer.
having no track practice - and a basketball game that night - she
dominated the state indoor track meet, setting records in the 60-meter
dash (7.69 seconds) and long jump (17-11 3/4) while taking second in the
high jump (5-2). During the spring outdoor meet, she won state titles in the 100, long jump and triple jump.
calls her sophomore year "unbelievable. To be honest, I didn't expect
it so quickly. There's a learning curve. You get some of those who are
naturals and that's what she is."
As a junior Sydney was the No. 2
scorer and rebounder as the Bulldogs posted a 30-2 record, won the
Class 7A state title and were ranked No. 16 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 National Girls Basketball Rankings
Again, however, she had to compete at the state
indoor track meet with no track practice and a key basketball game later
that day. This time she won the 60 in 7.71, the long jump with a record
19 feet and placed third in the high jump at 5 feet.
followed that at the state outdoor meet with a triple jump record and a
career-best effort of 38-11. She also won the 100 and long jump.
that point she elected to give up basketball - even though she was the
lone returning starter - and concentrate solely on track for her senior
year. Basketball coach Bobby Smith, who now is an assistant
principal, noted, "She did a great job of fitting herself in on teams
that already had great players. She complemented those teams so well by
her open-court finishes and badly-needed rebounding.
in provided a finishing touch to great existing teams. She gave us a
big name and an athletic presence that helped elevate our team to the
heights it achieved. She definitely was a D-1 basketball player if she
had continued. College coaches were crazy about her athleticism and
"I felt good about quitting after my junior year," Sydney
said. "If I would have focused, I could have gone far in either one. I
always liked track better than basketball. It came easier than
As a senior she was able to concentrate on track for
the first time in her career. All she did was set four indoor state
records: 7.58 in the 60, 24.84 in the 200, 38-3 3/4 in the triple jump
and 19-9 1/4 in the long jump.
This spring she already has
achieved outdoor career bests with 20-3 in the long jump and 11.68 in
the 100, both at the Texas Relays.
Sydney's final year also has produced more than on-the-field records.
big thing is how she's matured as a leader and can motivate our team,"
Yoakum said proudly. "She's more worried about how we can win than
The Fayetteville coach does admit there is one thing about his star that is rather puzzling.
related, "It seems like it takes her 20 minutes to get from one event
to another. She just walks slow. I have to slow down and wait on her. I
guess she's saving all her energy for the next event."
This summer will be her fourth with the Top Gun Track Club, coached by Calvin Davis.
called her "awfully mature for a person just starting out (as a
freshman). She was always very meticulous about track. She was pretty
grown up and professional. She's always been a model athlete and has
worked very hard. She's a great technician. There's not much to work on.
She just needs to stay healthy and get with a great coach (at the next
Her future lies with the University of Alabama, which
she chose over Texas A&M and Kansas because of assistant coach Dick
Booth, who coached her father at the University of Arkansas.
a great environment," she said. "Dick Booth is a really, really
phenomenal jumps coach. I'm mostly about making it to the Olympics and
going there will help me with that process. I just hope I can be there
Her college years are going to be very interesting
because she loves the long jump, but does not care for the triple jump -
her father's gold medal event.
"It's great having him at home," she said of her father. "He's always there for every meet. He's there when it counts."
Conley Sr. predicts, "I think she'll jump 21 feet (in the long jump)
this year. When she first started the long jump (in seventh grade), she
didn't understand. Her perception was that every time you have a track
meet you have to jump farther than before. The first time (she didn't
jump farther) she won but she was infuriated. She is cocky compared to
my boys. She won't back down."
But despite facing some odds, he
still believes her future is in the triple jump because of her speed and
jumping ability (close to a 35-inch vertical jump).
going to be one of the best ever in the triple jump once she gets there
with Dick Booth," the former Olympic champion predicted. "I don't let
her do it much now, because it's so stressful on a young lady's body.
Once she learns the technique, Dick will be able to convince her very
easily. She will be getting better and not even knowing it."
told MaxPreps, "She doesn't know she likes it (the triple jump). She's
got enough talent. Everything she does, she does pretty easily. The
triple jump has a really big upside for her. People with a lot of talent
are going to stick with the long jump. She can be dominant in the
triple jump. She's going to catch on and be better than anyone else -
and she'll love it.
"I'm really excited. Mike told me, 'If she
inherited anything from me, she hates to lose.' It's an internal thing.
Either you have it or you don't."