When I was in high school, I was involved in forensics in addition to cross country and track. Forensics tournaments are in the winter, which means short daylight hours. We often left for forensics tournaments early in the morning when it was still dark, and then got home after dark. My family lived in the country with no sidewalks or streetlights.
One winter Friday night my junior year, I was grumbling that I probably wouldn't be able to run the next day due to a forensics tournament. We'd had a lot of snow and running on icy, snowy roads in the pitch dark probably wasn't my best play. I complained that because my two biggest rivals at the state meet both lived in larger cities where they had streetlights, sidewalks, and plowed roads, they were going to be able to run on a day that I likely wasn't. I didn't like the thought of them getting that edge on me, even for one day.
Some might say that Brandon Clark beat some long odds when he kicked from fourth place in the last 200 meters of last year's Class 6A track and field championships to win the title in the 800m run. It was the first state medal of any color for Clark in three years of running high school cross country and track.
But Clark, a senior at Olathe North, beat much longer odds five months later after suffering a stroke that nearly killed him on Halloween night.
You read that right: A seemingly healthy, 17-year-old state champion runner suffered a stroke when a blood clot formed at the stem of his brain, cutting oxygen to the brain for much of four hours and creating a mad scramble that included two anxiety-filled ambulance rides and a just-in-time surgery to save his life.
This is his story.
On the eve of celebrating our independence as a country, let's take a few moments to celebrate the seniors who made the 2017-2018 cross country and track and field seasons special in Kansas.
The risk of doing so, of course, is that I will forget someone. In fact, this story is not about mentioning every senior - or even every one of the 78 seniors who won at least one individual state championship this past season.
Instead, this look back at some of the seniors who made the past sports year memorable in Kansas is simply my take on many of the storylines that made us smile...or maybe even cry.
I strongly urge you to add your own memories, and recognize other seniors not mentioned in this space, by using the comments section at the bottom of this page.
To all Kansas seniors, I say 'Thanks for the Memories' and good luck in your future endeavors, whether or not they include athletics.
Tri•um•vi•rate /n: A group of three influential or notable people existing in relation to each other.
Three exceptional young Kansan female athletes, all of whom produced high school marks during the 2016-2017 school year in the top-10 in the U.S. at 5K XC, 1600, or 3200, sat down together in a meeting room at a public library and started talking.
The interview was scheduled to last 1 ½ hours, but it went nearly twice that long and covered subjects far beyond the planned update about them since their statistically freakish high school season the year before. Within minutes, I was thankful for the last-minute decision to grab an old video camera because I could tell something special was unfolding, even though the three of them probably didn't realize it at the time.