KEARNEY — Seth Stroh isn’t the typical high school athlete.
With specialization the trend in amateur athletics, Stroh’s participation in four sports his first two years and then three sports his last two years of high school isn’t common. But his overall athletic skills and passion for competing are what allowed him to thrive, especially as a senior this year.
Stroh was a standout on the football and basketball teams. He didn’t compete in baseball due to the coronavirus pandemic, but likely would have excelled, as he’s committed to Division I Wichita State to play baseball.
Stroh’s success in football and basketball earned him the distinction as this year’s Kearney Hub Male Prep Athlete of the Year.
“I would summarize my senior year as a success,” Stroh said. “Obviously not getting to play baseball was disappointing. But having good football and basketball seasons was enjoyable.”
In football, Stroh didn’t have nearly the same production his senior year as he did as a junior. But, the receiver missed four games with a torn meniscus this year. The Bearcats also had a new quarterback under center with senior Colin Murray taking over for Brayden Miller, who was a walk-on freshman at the University of Nebraska last fall.
Stroh finished with 15 receptions for 278 yards and four touchdowns in six games for the Bearcats, who went 7-3 and lost in the first round of the Class A playoffs to Elkhorn South.
“He made a huge difference when he was in the game, and he made a huge difference when he was out of the game,” said KHS football coach Brandon Cool. “He really impacted a lot of the things we wanted to do, especially offensively last fall because of his matchup size and speed versus our opponents was a huge advantage for us. To lose him throughout most of the middle part of the season was a dagger for us, especially in those big games.”
In the first game of the season against Grand Island, Stroh had his best performance of the year. He hauled in five passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Murray connected with Stroh for a 28-yard touchdown pass about four minutes into the first quarter. He also caught a 50-yard TD pass in the third quarter.
The Bearcats held a lead in the second half but allowed the Islanders to score two fourth-quarter touchdowns to escape with a 32-31 victory.
“It’s for sure a rivalry,” Stroh said. “Growing up with those kids and playing them the last eight years and then it obviously was the last time playing them in football — it was a special moment.”
After Kanon Koster was the go-to option in Stroh’s first two years and Shiloh Robinson served that role last year, Stroh took over as the Bearcats’ best player on the basketball team this season.
He also was one of the top basketball players in the Kearney Hub area. He finished the season with 15.3 points. 7.1 rebounds, 1.8 blocks, 1.5 assists and 1.3 steals per game in 25 contests.
Although Stroh wishes he could have guided the Bearcats to their fourth consecutive state tournament last season, he was pleased with how his last year of high school basketball went.
“It was obviously really disappointing not getting back to state,” Stroh said. “You want to leave that legacy, continue that legacy and help Coach keep that running number going. You don’t want to be the class to not be able to get to state. But it was another successful year, and we had a lot of fun, too.”
One game that stands out for KHS basketball coach Drake Beranek during Stroh’s senior year was against Grand Island. Although the Bearcats lost 74-63, Stroh ended his shooting woes from beyond the arc. Stroh had made just 4 of 25 attempts in 17 games from beyond the three-point line before the Grand Island game. But that changed against the Islanders. He made 4 of 7 3-pointers to finish with 20 points.
“He provided us with so many memories,” Beranek said. “The best thing is we sit there and watch him make shot after shot in practice and I think halfway through the year he was shooting 16 percent from the 3-point line. You know these kids are capable of doing things and it just wasn’t working out. You stick with him. Then he comes in and knocks down ... 3s in the second half against Grand Island.”
Stroh was on the track and field team during his first two years of high school.
He didn’t compete in track last year, though. With the Bearcats adding a baseball program last spring, Stroh played baseball and was a key component on their state tournament team.
The two-way player hit .273 with one home run and 15 RBIs and appeared in six games as a pitcher, posting a 3.23 ERA, during the Bearcats’ inaugural season last year.
In the summer American Legion season, Stroh experienced success. He hit .431 with three home runs, four triples and 40 RBIs while posting a 5-0 record and 1.99 ERA on the mound last summer.
Stroh hoped to build off that success this spring. But with the season canceled, Stroh is hoping to play a few American Legion games this summer before he heads to Wichita State University in mid-August.
He’s joining the Shockers as a two-way player. He is eager to play for Wichita State head coach Eric Wedge, who managed 10 years in the major leagues, and pitching coach Mike Pelfrey, who spent 12 years as a big-league pitcher.
Stroh believes the competitive atmosphere at KHS has prepared him for the collegiate level.
“I’ve been really fortunate to have a lot of great coaches and teammates,” Stroh said. “No matter what sport it was, I think it’s helped me tremendously to keep working to develop that work ethic and to show me the dedication of how much work you need to put in to get to this level.”