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Center Groves Conner Stapleton is the 15th Annual Johnson County Male Athlete of the Year.  Scott Roberson / Daily Journal
Center Groves Conner Stapleton is the 15th Annual Johnson County Male Athlete of the Year. Scott Roberson / Daily Journal

When it came to reaching the pinnacle of athletics success, no hurdle was too great for Conner Stapleton to overcome.

Really, it wasn’t.

On the football field, the 2013 Center Grove graduate was one of the area’s top running backs on a team that advanced to the Class 5A semistate.

On the track, he was the state’s No. 1 performer in the 300-meter hurdles.

A two-sport athlete who helped fuel the Center Grove football team’s offense and powered its state-ranked track and field team, Stapleton was a versatile performer who excelled well beyond traditional expectations.

He rushed for 1,067 yards and 15 touchdowns during the football season and concluded his spectacular track career by winning the 300 hurdles title at the May 31 IHSAA State Track and Field Championships.

In recognition of his accomplishments, Stapleton has been selected the 2012-13 Johnson County Male Athlete of the Year, as selected by the Daily Journal sports staff.

Stapleton was honored Tuesday, along with 22 other senior athletes from the county’s six public high schools, at the 15th annual Johnson County Athlete of the Year Banquet at Franklin College.

Sponsored by the Daily Journal and the Johnson County athletics directors, the event honors male and female athletes for outstanding achievement in athletics and sportsmanship.

Whiteland resident Brad Long, who portrayed Hickory Huskers basketball player Buddy Walker in the classic 1986 movie “Hoosiers,” was this year’s guest speaker.

“I look back and it has, at the very least, been a roller coaster” said Stapleton, who, like all Athlete of the Year candidates, was nominated by his school. “It’s been the highs and lows.

“I just tried to have a championship attitude.”

Winner of a combined seven varsity letters in his career, Stapleton was a first-team member of the Daily Journal’s 2012 All-County Football Team and was a three-time all-state selection in track.

His finest moment on the track was at the state meet, where we won the 300 hurdles with a time 37.26 seconds. He finished eighth in the same event as a sophomore and was third last year.

Besides winning the hurdles, Stapleton ran the fourth and final leg of the Trojans’ second-place 1,600 relay team. The podium finishes helped Center Grove finish an impressive third in the team standings.

It’s been a very humbling experience,” Stapleton said. “When I look back I have a tremendous amount of people to thank.”

An honors student who maintained a 3.79 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale, Stapleton will continue his track career on scholarship at Notre Dame.

He plans to major in in finance, with a career goal of becoming a chief financial officer.

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