Alexis Conaway is a throwback – back to an era when high school athletes actually used their ability across multiple platforms, rather than channeling it into a single sport from an early age.
So who better than Conaway, a senior at MOC-Floyd Valley High (Orange City, Iowa), to discuss USA TODAY High School Sports’ Ultimate Athlete series? Few athletes, after all, excel at Conaway’s level in a trio of sports.
Last season, Conaway carried her volleyball team to a 33-3 record en route to the 3A state championship. The 6-foot outside hitter posted a .435 hitting percentage and recorded 489 kills, 79 blocks and 257 digs. Conaway was named the Gatorade Iowa Volleyball Player of the Year and was also honored as the state player of the year by the Iowa Girls Coaches Association.
Apart from the volleyball court, Conaway excels in the air — up to 5 feet, 10 inches, in fact — a height she jumped as a sophomore to capture first place at the Drake Relays. Her debut Drake performance was the third-best height in the event’s history.
In hoops, Conaway is a three-time all-state selection. Last season, she averaged 18.3 points and 7.6 rebounds as she led her team to the semifinal round of its third consecutive state tournament appearance.
From the court to the track and now into our spotlight, we’re featuring Conawayas part of USA TODAY High School Sports’ Ultimate Athlete profile series.
For eight months, we’re spotlightingcases deemed Ultimate Athlete-worthy as part of an ongoing, interactive discussion about what sport supersedes the rest. Check in for athlete profiles, smack talk, training videos and more, culminating with the crowning of the Ultimate Athlete.
Here, Conaway discusses her mental approach to the game and what’s helped her become a well-rounded athlete.
When did you realize you wanted to pursue volleyball at a more serious level?
Conaway: Freshman year of high school. I started to play really competitively with an AAU team in the spring. I loved playing at a higher level. It motivated me.
What’s most challenging about playing volleyball?
Conaway: It’s so much of a momentum game compared to any other sport. One point can change the outcome of the game.
How does your personality differ on and off the court?
Conaway: In general, I’m really even keel. That’s my role on the team — to keep everyone calm. I focus on what needs to be done. Through experience, I’ve learned that getting down or worked up doesn’t help in the long run.
How has playing multiple sports helped you become a better athlete in each one?
Conaway: So many girls play one sport year-round, which can really wear out your body. Doing different things uses different muscles, and the footwork involved for each sport has helped me become a well-rounded athlete. Track keeps me in shape, and all of the jumping I do in volleyball helps me with basketball and track.
What of the three sports is most challenging?
Conaway: Each sport has its challenges. Physically, basketball is tougher — I’m dealing with girls who are bigger than me. Mentally, track is most challenging because I’m competing against other people and against myself. I really had to learn I can always push myself more.
How has your approach to sports matured throughout your development?
Conaway: Every point and every touch is essential to the game, so I learned just how valuable practice is to prepare. You can go into a practice and be only half [present] and therefore not get anything out of it. I really learned how to take advantage of every touch, every swing and every serve.