According to Bobby Grace’s teammates, he may be one of most soft-spoken people you’ll ever meet, so you might never expect that he’s ranked top 20 in the world for shot put. This senior in business management has been unassumingly rewriting Youngstown State University’s record books since 2010.
Grace was raised outside of Cleveland in Middleburg Heights and attended Midpark High School. He said he has always loved sports even though throwing for a track and field team his was not original love.
“I pretty much played sports my whole life — started out with hockey, moved into football, then track got more serious into high school. I’d say junior year I really got serious,” Grace said.
Grace went on at Midpark High School to become a team captain and the holder of Midpark’s shot put record. He was named all conference twice, as well as district champion and would carry his impressive resume with him to YSU.
Since starting his career as a Penguin, Grace has broken the indoor and outdoor shot put record, placed first for numerous events at the Horizon League Championships and is now closing in on his Olympic dreams.
“Two years ago, I didn’t make the Olympic trials — I was off by two spots. So, each year is the USA Championship, which is basically the Olympic trials, it’s just not an Olympic year,” Grace said. “This year I’ll be going to the USA Championship in Sacramento and any time you can do a meet with all pros. It’s a good builder, and you get to see what the next chapter is like.”
With all of the accomplishments and aspirations that Grace has, his teammates say that he remains the same down-to-Earth guy they know off the field.
“You’d never think he is as good as he actually is. He’s probably one of the most humble people I know. I mean honestly, with the level he’s at, you’d never know,” Jessica Parham, Grace’s teammate and a competitor in women’s javelin said.
John Seaver, a fellow thrower and friend, backed up Parham’s thoughts.
“He’s got all the traits of someone who’s great at the sport,” Seaver said. “He really applies himself and strives to be good, but he doesn’t change who he is; he’s still that really cool dude.”
One of the traits the Grace uses to his advantage is his focus. Whether he is preparing for an upcoming meet or stepping up to launch a 16-pound shot 60 feet at the USA Championship, his concentration remains unbroken. Grace credits one man with helping him keep such a calm state of mind — James Smith.
“I got in contact with him through my coaches, Willy Danzer and Brian Skelnar. They linked me up with James, and he does a lot of mental preparation type stuff. We talked about eliminating outside factors and not worrying about things you can’t control. Make sure a random practice in the summer feels the same as your last meet.”
All Grace’s preparation and focus has allowed him to be a model athlete, and now, his chance to be an Olympian sits within reach. Since he picked up the sport back in his days as a Midpark Meteor, he has steamrolled his competition. Even though it can be attributed to his hard work, Grace recognizes the people who’ve supported him most.
“Both of my parents have always been huge motivators. I specifically remember my freshman year of high school states was out of reach but my dad was like, don’t worry lets go watch so we can see where you’ll be in a few years. He was never one of those dads that was to overbearing or anything.”
Grace also gave more thanks to another close source of motivation.
“And I don’t want to leave out my coach, Brent Shelby,” he said.
Most recently, Grace was the lone Penguin to compete in the NCAA Division I Championship on Saturday. He finished third behind Ryan Crouser of Texas, the nation’s leader, in the shot put and Stephen Mozia of Cornell. Heading into the NCAA Championship, Grace ranked 11th in the nation.