Athlete of the week: Clay Conley ’20

Clay Conley ’20 made headlines at Haverford’s McElligot Invitational with their performance in the shot put event. Conley, a junior from New Canaan, Connecticut, recorded the Centennial Conference’s top shot put throw of the year at 13.00 meters. Conley’s throw was more than two meters further than the second-place finisher at the McElligot Invitational, and finished 14th overall in marks in the all of Division III this athletic year. The Garnet will compete next on February 16 at the Keogh Invitational at Haverford College.

Ping Promrat: What is your major and what motivated you to choose it?

Clay Conley: I’m a music and gender and sexuality studies double major. I came to Swarthmore as a math and music double major. However, three things changed: I stopped being cisgender, I stopped being straight, and math got far too difficult.

PP: What made you choose Swarthmore?

CC: I was a recruited track athlete for regular decision. I fell in love with my coach, Lauren Lucci; my host and future teammate, Maggie O’Neil, showed me how at Swarthmore you can do music, sports, and schoolwork, and I listened to a recording of Swarthmore’s Orchestra performing “Scheherazade” by Rimsky-Korsakov, and I was sold.

PP: How did it feel to record the top conference shot put throw of the season? How do you balance motivating yourself on a personal level with the combined team aspect of the sport?

CC: Shot put is my baby. Of all the events I compete in, shot put is my favorite and I care the most about my performance. I’m chasing Nationals this year, so getting the top throw in the conference is, I guess in some way, just the first step. Track is a very individualized sport. The throws [are] particularly [individualized] because there are no relays to compete in. It is every person for themselves. Between my teammates, we have really healthy competition. We all want each other to do our best (e.g. PR), but we also all simultaneously want gold. I’d say we feed off of each others’ craving for first place.

PP: What led you to originally compete in track and field as a kid?

CC: I started track my senior year of high school, because my best friend was a captain. I was the captain of the softball team, so I only intended to compete in indoor. However, I ended up winning counties, states, and broke my school’s indoor school record. Also, I was deferred from my ED school and saw track as a new avenue to get into college beyond academics. I then subsequently quit softball and fell in love with track and field.

PP: If you could change one thing about Swarthmore, what would it be?


CC: If I could wave a magic wand and change one thing about Swarthmore, I would remove all exclusive spaces that are rooted in the privilege of its members.

PP:  Favorite spot on campus?

CC: Underhill seminar room. I’ve cried in that room, had existential crises in the room, had class in that room, and had amazing conversations in that room.

PP: Favorite Sharples bar?

CC: Indian bar! My teammate Naomi Bronkema doesn’t get the hype. It’s okay though, she is still perfect.

PP: What are your personal and team goals for the rest of the season?

CC: I feel like our team goal, specifically the throwers’ team goal, is to reach our personal goals. Track is so individualized that we just want everyone to excel personally. Like I said before, I’m chasing Nationals. But I care about shot put so much that I get really anxious and nervous when competing so if I can work through that this season…I guess we will just have to wait and see!

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