Wristen: No record, but senior will leave legacy
Wichita Adam Vordermark made it clear three weeks ago that he wanted his lasting impression on the Lansing High track team to be in the form of a school record.
The LHS senior didn't get his wish; the 1,600-meter relay record still stands, and it had a 15-second cushion before it would've been seriously threatened.
Despite the lack of a school record, however, Vordermark is going to leave behind a legacy, and it's one that ultimately may prove to be far more meaningful to him than seeing his name on the record board.
His legacy will be visible next year in the form of Jason Swisher, Brenton Smith and Bobby Hauver. Their success will be due, in part, to his influence this spring. And it's fitting that that will be the case, because those are the people - his 1,600-meter relay teammates - that Vordermark was thinking about moments after running his final race on Saturday at the Class 5A track state meet.
Vordermark talked about how "insane" the 800-meter race was that he'd just completed, about how strange it was to compete in a race where the top five competitors ran under 1:58 while he placed 12th in 2:01.41. He talked about how the fifth-place finisher, Derrick Perry of Topeka West, "should've won flat-out just for being a nice guy."
Then Vordermark's mind drifted back to his favorite race, the 1,600-meter relay - the race he didn't get to run at state because his team didn't qualify - and he paused.
"My four-by-four team : I think I would've run this (800-meter) race with twice as much heart if I'd have had them here with me," he said. "That's all I wanted."
That, in a nutshell, is the side of Vordermark that the causal observer doesn't see, but it's who the LHS track athletes and coaches have grown to love. They see past the wild hair - sometimes long, sometimes braided, past the Captain Jack Sparrow beard braids and the flamboyant personality.
They see the guy who could be great running solo, but who finds more satisfaction when sharing the experience with his teammates.
"This race I run, the 800," he said, "I do it because I'm good at it, and it proves to people that you're a beast and you can take some pain. If you can run under a 2:04 in the 800, you can take pain, and that's what I like to prove.
"But the 400 : I love that race."
What he loved most was the unity with his teammates. Four guys; each running 400 meters at a dead sprint; muscles screaming every step of the way; united in pain and united in glory. That's what fueled Vordermark's desire to break the school record in the 1,600-meter relay.
He didn't want the record for himself. He wanted it for his teammates.
Vordermark knew how to push his limits as a runner. His teammates admired him for it, and his opponents feared him because of it. Through the relay, Vordermark could see Swisher, Smith and Hauver adopting his desire and confidence as runners. It worked. They ran faster by the week. His successes were their successes, and vice versa.
Vordermark knew he could make it to state in the 800 meters and the 3,200-meter relay, but he wanted to take this group to state, too.
Most people didn't see Vordermark's tears at regionals after the 1,600-meter relay team failed to qualify for state.
"That's the last time I'll ever get to run with those guys," he whispered through sniffles. "I wasn't able to get our freshman (Swisher) to state."
Here at state, standing on the Cessna Stadium infield after his final high school race, Vordermark couldn't shake the memory of his teammates. He wanted to talk about them one last time before heading off to college at Kansas State where he'll study to become a bounty hunter.
"I love these kids so much," Vordermark said. "If I could choose between going to college and taking another year with these kids, I'd take the year. I'd do it again."
Unfortunately for Vordermark, there is no next year. But fortunately for Swisher, Smith and Hauver, they do have another year. And fortunately for them, they spent this season running with and learning from Vordermark. Because of that, there's a good chance they'll be running at state next year.
And who knows? Maybe they'll make a serious run at that school record.
"I know my boys' potential," Vordermark said with a smile.
Thanks to him, now they know it too.