Prep Signing: West Rowan’s McNeely runs to Lees-McRae
By Ronnie Gallagher
MOUNT ULLA — West Rowan cross country coach Scott Foster remembers the first time he noticed Cody McNeely.
“I saw this tan kid with long, blonde hair and thought he was some new kid from California,” Foster chuckled.
No, McNeely wasn’t a transplanted surfer dude but what Foster discovered was a superb athlete who could probably run to California and back and not break a sweat.
That was back when McNeely was a freshman. Now, as a West Rowan senior, he is headed to college to run cross country in the North Carolina mountains at Lees McRae.
“Bigger schools were interested in Cody,” Foster said. “But he had his heart set on Lees McRae.”
McNeely said cousin Joe is already there and he wanted to join him in Banner Elk. He’s looking forward to getting acclimated to the thinner mountain air.
“It will be a lot less oxygen,” McNeely noted. “It will be hard for the first month or so.”
Nothing seemed hard about running that initial practice in the fall of 2009 when he showed for practice on the urging of buddy Chris Holmes.
“I was thinking football but I talked to Chris and ran with him,” McNeely said. “That first day, we ran a 5K to decide who was going to be on varsity and I came in third.”
An impressed Foster remembers his new freshman.
“His form — Cody was so light on his feet,” he said.
McNeely has always been a versatile athlete. That blonde hair was well-known as he flew up and down the court in the area youth basketball leagues.
He also played baseball four seasons in the spring at West instead of running track. Foster says that makes his scholarship even more astounding, considering he broke the school cross country record with a time of 16:33.
“I can’t remember anybody getting in the 16s and not running track,” Foster said. “For a kid not to run track, other coaches told me what he did was incredible.”
When McNeely had the chance to get on the field in baseball, he made the most of it. This year, for instance, he finished in double figure RBIs. He played basketball for a couple of years, but he soon realized that running was what was going to help pay for his college education.
“It was either Lees McRae or Catawba,” McNeely said. “I didn’t really want to go to Catawba because it was too close to home. I wanted to get away for a little bit.”
McNeely won the honor of “Mr. West Rowan” and his popular demeanor made him a favorite at school. He’ll probably be just as popular in college with his coach and teammates once he starts producing good times.
McNeely was all-county and all-conference as a junior and senior and now takes his talent to Bobcats coach Ley Fletcher, who has developed a program that has made the Division II Southeast Regional Outdoor Championships.
“He’s real happy to have Cody,” Foster said of Lees-McRae’s Fletcher.
McNeely can excel in the 800, 1600 and 3200.
“Once he concentrates on running year-round, Cody will take it to another level,” Foster said. “Lees-McRae is getting a Division I-type runner. He’s going to be really, really good.”