Ryan Jobes was good at everything.
Whether he was playing ping-pong, setting state records in track or participating in a dance-off, Jobes competed fiercely and success almost always followed. And while his interests greatly varied, his modesty was a constant.
Jobes, a stand-out runner on the track team and a member of the cross country team, died in a car crash on Interstate 64 in Beckley, W.Va., on the afternoon of Dec. 20. He was driving home to West Virginia for holiday break.
Jobes, a sophomore, was heading up a steep incline when he struck the back of a slow-moving tractor-trailer and went underneath the truck. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Jobes' teammate Diane Kenaston described the mountain where Jobes was killed in an e-mail to her team on Dec. 28.
"The mountain where he died, Sandstone Mountain, is long and steep. It takes five minutes to drive up it going 70 mph and many vehicles are unable to go even above 55 mph in the climb to the top," said Kenaston, also of West Virginia. "Some, including the semi that Ryan hit, must go much, much slower."
Modest, loyal, dependable, selfless and competitive were the words most commonly used to describe Ryan in the weeks after his death.
"Man, was he a fierce competitor," teammate Pete Norquist said at his memorial service on Monday. "Whether it was a game of Madden, basketball or a race on the track, you knew Ryan was going to compete with everything he had. And if you did happen to beat him, you knew there was going to be a rematch in the near future."
Despite his many talents, Jobes was remarkably modest, friends said. Dave Delaplaine, Jobes' freshman-year roommate and teammate, said he found out about most of Jobes's talents slowly as they trickled out during the course of last year.
"He was very humble," his teammate Mary Dudley Bertram said. "I wouldn't know he was good at something until someone else would mention it."
One story passed around involved one of Jobes' high school friends. The friend walked into his own living room and heard someone playing the piano. He jokingly asked, "Who let Billy Joel in?" and saw that Jobes was playing. Not realizing his friend played the piano, he questioned Jobes and found that he had taken it up about a month ago.
"He was incredibly humble and just very thankful and gracious for the opportunities he got," said Stephen Taylor, head coach for the men's track and field team.
Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter
Jobes hadn't yet declared a major, which was representative of his easygoing manner, friends said.
"He was very laid-back," Bertram said. "He didn't let things worry him too much."
At his service, the Rev. Jonathan Caldwell, a youth pastor at First Baptist Church in Williamstown, spoke of once beating Ryan in a race. At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, this was no small feat, he said.
Then the truth came out.
"Ryan was only 12," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said he didn't dare challenge Jobes to a race again -- and for good reason.
"I've coached at the Division-I collegiate level for 16 years and he was the most talented athlete I had the opportunity to work with," said Taylor said, whose oldest brother, Mike, coached Jobes while he was a student at Williamstown High School.
While at Williamstown High School, Jobes competed in track, cross country, tennis, basketball and golf. He led his team to state championship titles in 2003 and 2004, where he won the 400 meter, 800 meter and 1600 meter events. His 4-by-400 relay team also took first place.
He was named the Ray McCoy Track Athlete of the Year in 2004, an award which recognizes the top track and field athlete in West Virginia each year.
In tennis, Jobes placed third in the state singles competition and second in doubles in 2003.
At Richmond, Jobes continued to succeed on the track. He placed third in the 800 meter at the 2005 Atlantic 10 Conference Championships, an amazing accomplishment for a freshman runner, Taylor said.
Taylor said he loved to watch Ryan run because he never struggled against himself or locked up while he was running.
"He looked free when he was running," Taylor said. "He looked ... just beautiful."
At his service, teammate John Ciccarelli described the first time he experienced Jobes' "brilliance." Ciccarelli, a senior, had been ahead of the pack for an entire workout. During the final circuit, he felt someone on his heels.
"There was Ryan Jobes, effortlessly floating behind me," Ciccarelli said.
When talking to him later, Ciccarelli recalled Jobes, then a freshman saying, "I just knew I could run faster, so I did."
Besides his athletic talent, Jobes was known for his kindness, Taylor said.
"I watched every race he ever ran at the college level and at the starting line he would be walking down the line and shaking every person's hand and wishing them luck," Taylor said. "At the finish line, he was the first to congratulate the other runners."
Jobes was interested in seeing everyone else succeed. He loved his teammates and was always concerned about the relationships of the team, Ciccarelli said.
"He was great with all the freshmen," Bertram said. "He helped us get adjusted and showed us around campus. He was a big part of my getting used to college."
At their first meet without Jobes on Saturday, the track and field team was struggling with his absence, Taylor said. Several of his teammates had tears in their eyes during the 400-meter, a race that Jobes was set to run.
"We're still devastated. Our team is really struggling with his loss," Taylor said. "He was such an integral part of our program."
Ryan Charles Jobes was born April 12, 1986. He is survived by his mother, Brenda Jobes, father, John Jobes, stepfather, Mark Parker, stepmother, Kim Jobes, sister, Kristin, and stepbrother Brian.
His family and Williamstown High School have created the Ryan Jobes Scholarship Fund to recognize a Williamstown student with outstanding achievement in athletics, academics and citizenship.
The track and field team will be collecting donations to be sent to the fund as one gift. They will be holding a "run-a-thon" and selling "I ? RJ," a tribute to the "I love NY" shirt Ryan often wore to practice, Taylor said.
All donations can be sent to the "Ryan Jobes Scholarship Fund," care of Richmond Track and Field, 217 Robins Center.
Taylor said he felt the citizenship element of the scholarship was key to honoring Jobes. "Ryan was very involved with the community in Williamstown," Taylor said. "Everyone knew him as their second son.
"We need more people like him in this world"
Support independent student media
You can make a tax-deductible donation by clicking the button below, which takes you to our secure PayPal account. The page is set up to receive contributions in whatever amount you designate. We look forward to using the money we raise to further our mission of providing honest and accurate information to students, faculty, staff, alumni and others in the general public.Donate Now