All-State sprinter signs with the Jennies

Camdenton senior Grace Wormek loves to run.

Turns out, she is pretty good at it too and she will get to continue doing so as one of the newest members of the University of Central Missouri track and field team. Wormek made it official on Wednesday afternoon as she signed her name on the line for the Jennies with coaches, family, friends and teammates in attendance.

“I’m just super thankful that I was gifted with the ability to run and I get to continue my track and field career, which I love doing,” said Wormek who played a key role in helping the Lakers capture the first state championship in program history a season ago. “I’m just excited that I get to go and run in college now and progressively get better.”

For Wormek, it all began in middle school when she joined her first track and field team and once she got started, she never stopped as she decided to put a potential soccer career on hold.

“I fell in love with it instantly,” the senior recalled. “I love that it is an individual sport to a certain extent. I love to compete against other people and against myself, I can continuously get better with my times and can always push people on my relay team to do better. I love that it is individual, but there is always a team aspect.”

As she entered the high school ranks, the success came about pretty quickly.

As a freshman, she won the district title in the 100-meter dash and went on to earn All-State honors as a member of the 4x100 relay team, which also set a new school record finishing fifth in the state for Class 4. Wormek narrowly missed out on All-State honors as a sophomore in three separate events, but added more conference, district and sectional championships to her resume in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes and the 4x100 relay. Last season the resume grew even more as she added four conference and district championships, three sectional championships and a state title to the mix as a member of the 4x400 relay team while also finishing third in the state in the 200-meter dash and 4x200 relay and fourth in the 100-meter dash.

To keep track of it all, Wormek entered her senior season with Ozark Conference titles in six events, district titles in eight events, sectional titles in five events and one state title. She is a 10-time state qualifier, has five state medals to her name and holds school records in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 4x100, 4x200 and 4x400. She is not done yet either with one final season left to complete.

Wormek may have been gifted with some wheels, but her success on the track was not the result of natural talent alone. As a runner for Camdenton, the senior has been a devil for the details and takes concepts like running form, nutrition and staying in shape fairly seriously. However, she said it also takes a strong supporting cast and that is exactly what she has been privileged with as a Laker.

“I owe a lot of my thanks to my coaches. They are trying and doing the best for me so I can have the best opportunities on the track,” Wormek pointed out. “They always put me in a prime position whether it be in the weight room, helping me with my diet and keeping me in shape at practice. I owe a lot to my teammates as well who are always there to push me and make sure we all do our best.”

Camdenton coach John McNabb said it has been fun to watch that progression from the start, noting that work ethic was never a problem.

“I think it has been a gradual process, but I think she learned what it takes to continue to improve and the hard work involved,” he remarked. “It is neat seeing a kid going from a wide-eyed freshman that really does not really know what is going on and is just happy to be there to making that progression as a junior and senior and becoming a leader on the team having the great success she’s had.”

Of course, having the right mindset can always make a big difference as well, every time Wormek steps up to the starting line and waits for the gun to go off.

“They (coaches) always tell me to just run,” Wormek said with a smile. “I do my best in practice, compete and try my hardest at meets.

“I just have to remember that I am still the same runner every time. I’m still capable of running to the best of my ability and I can still remember all the fundamentals and things that my coaches tell me before I run a race. Each time there is pressure I get nervous, but ultimately I have to remember to just run.”

While Wormek and her teammates continually strive for improvement and take that notion seriously, the senior and her teammates also have fun at the same time and McNabb said he will miss working with Wormek and the senior group.

“I am going to kind of miss some of her dumb questions she asks in team meetings every day,” the coach said jokingly. “It has been a lot of fun and has been an enjoyable experience. We’ve had some great and really fun moments and you just try to repeat those things with new kids each year, but it has certainly been special with her and this particular group of kids.”

However, with everyone who competed for a state title a season ago back for more in 2018, the work is not done yet. McNabb said Wormek is probably hungry for more being her final season as a Laker.

“We are just fortunate right now to have a great combination of kids,” the coach stated. “We are excited to see how the state track meet series works out for us. Obviously, we want to do the absolute best we can as we move on, but I think it is also kind of an inspiration that somebody that has signed to go on and run in college wants to finish their senior season on a high note. That is just some additional motivation.

“I told the kids last night there are about 30 days left in the track season so we need to get focused and do the best we can from this point on to try to repeat our success of last year,” McNabb added. “That is exciting that we still have that in front of us.”

Wormek is certainly excited for the immediate future as well, but is also looking forward to her upcoming collegiate career in Warrensburg, Mo., where she will represent Central Missouri at the Division II level. The senior said she is still undecided at this time on what she plans to study.

“I’m super excited about the conference,” the senior said of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association. “I love the MIAA and think it will be super competitive. It will definitely push me out of my comfort zone so it should be good.”

However, her love for Camdenton runs deep and it is not without a little hesitation that she will be leaving the Lake area. Her advice to her younger teammates is that hard work absolutely pays off.

“I love being a Laker. I have so much school spirit it is unreal and I don’t want to leave Camdenton, but I am excited for the next step,” the senior said. “Just do your best and if you work hard at something, you can always make your dreams come true.”

McNabb said Wormek is a shining example of that as the hard work she invested led to a path towards higher education and that in itself is no small feat.

“I think it is an inspiration for other kids to say, ‘Hey, if I am pretty talented and put the hard work into it, there is a reward at the end of my high school career.’ We’ve had other kids have this kind of success and I am excited,” the coach stated.

“Dreams do come true because when she was a freshman that is all this was, a dream. But now, it has become a reality and it is an inspiration for other kids that maybe their dreams can come true also.”