Excelling as a 3-sport athlete

Grade plays football, basketball, baseball while balancing farm duties

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ELDORADO, Wis. — With a schedule fuller than most kids his age, Keeton Grade begins his day long before school starts by working on his family’s dairy farm.

He loads and spreads manure, mixes feed and fixes equipment in the shop, if needed. His schedule does not stop after classes, as Keeton is active in practices or games for three sports.

Keeton is a senior at Laconia High School in Rosendale and has been a three-sport athlete all four years, playing football, basketball and baseball. However, he finds time to work on his family’s dairy, Vision Aire Farms LLC, with his dad, David Grade, grandparents, Roger and Sandy Grade, and his aunt and uncle, Janet and Travis Clark.

The family milks 150 cows and farms 1,000 acres near Eldorado.

Keeton’s commitments are many, resulting in packed days, but lessons learned on the farm have helped contribute to his success as an athlete.

“Working on the farm helps with finding the drive to work harder at sports,” Keeton said. “You have to have a lot of discipline on the court and on the field.”

Keeton is accustomed to a busy routine as the seasons take him from one sport to the next, but he said it is challenging to balance both sports and work on the farm.

“They are long days, and it’s very tiring at times,” he said. “It’s hard to find time to hang out with my friends.”

David said Keeton’s work ethic is phenomenal.

“To balance school life and the farm is a struggle, especially with dairy farming,” David said. “The animals have to be milked, fed and cleaned every day. When Keeton is scheduled to be here, he’s here. The things he’s learned on the farm have transitioned to the rest of his life, from being on time for practice to being respectful. He’s a great kid.”

Playing a trifecta of sports, Keeton likes basketball the most. He is a forward on his team, a position he especially enjoys.

“I get to attack and play down low, which I like,” Keeton said.

One of Keeton’s most memorable moments in sports occurred this year during the basketball season.

“I’ll never forget when we knocked out the No. 2 seed in the regional semi-finals to make it to the regional finals,” Keeton said. “We were the No. 7 seed.”

Keeton also remembers making his first dunk when he was a sophomore in the regional championship game. In addition, this farm kid holds the boys all-time rebounding record at his high school.

On the football team, Keeton is the quarterback and a linebacker.

“I like to throw the ball, and as the quarterback, I have the ball in my hands for almost every single possession,” he said.

Another memorable moment for the athlete was when the football team advanced to the second round of the playoffs last year.

In baseball, Keeton has multiple roles as a pitcher, shortstop and first baseman.

“These positions suit me well, and I do pretty well at them,” he said. “When pitching, I get to control the timing of the game, and striking a guy out makes me feel good.”

Keeton started with baseball around first grade. A year later, he began playing basketball. And by fifth grade, he was playing football.

 David’s favorite sport to watch his son play is basketball.

“We’re a basketball family,” David said. “I’ve coached Keeton since he was in third grade all the way through the youth program. When he got to high school, it was up to somebody else.”

David and his wife, Torrie, have three children. David continues to coach his seventh-grade son.

“The last few months have been a little crazy with both of my sons and my daughter playing basketball,” David said. “Since Jan. 1, I’ve been in a gym almost every weekend. It’s fun, and there are a lot of good memories. You get to know the kids when you coach, and it’s good to build those relationships with other kids in the community. It’s neat to still have that connection when they grow up.”

Keeton is the captain on all three teams, a role that he said requires leadership.

“You have to keep yourself accountable because other guys look up to you,” Keeton said.

The demands of being an athlete do not give Keeton much time to work on the farm in the evenings. When he has time, he helps in the field.

On the weekends, Keeton takes on more chores, working on the farm morning and night. In addition to his regular morning tasks, Keeton also milks cows on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Cows are milked twice a day in a double-8 herringbone parlor and housed in free stalls.

“We don’t give Keeton a lot of downtime,” David said. “He works really hard. We probably don’t give him enough recognition.”

 David expects his children to work on the farm, seeing it as an opportunity to learn important life skills.

“I told my kids they need to come to the farm and learn life’s lessons,” David said. “They need to learn how to do things, such as how to fix a piece of equipment. That can transfer to fixing something at your own house someday, like a lawn mower. Knowing how to do that stuff goes a long way.”

David and Torrie are proud parents of Keeton’s accomplishments, recognizing how the hours he puts in at the farm and the time spent playing sports are helping to shape their son into the man he is becoming.

Keeton plans to become a heavy equipment operator and will be enrolling in the Wisconsin operating engineers apprenticeship program following graduation. As he enters the last sports season of his high school career, Keeton’s emotions are mixed.

“I’m sad to see it go, and I’ll miss it,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”

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