Camdenton duo follow footsteps of older siblings in pursuit of their futures
As a younger sibling, it may be nice to have some guidance from those who have gone before you. Fortunately for Camdenton seniors Eli Griffin and Parker Wormek, their older siblings pioneered a path and showed them a way forward they have both chosen to follow.
Griffin will be heading to the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn. to join his older brother Jay, a 2018 Camdenton graduate, after signing with the school on April 8. Wormek is heading to the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg to join older sister Grace, also a 2018 graduate of Camdenton, after signing with the school on April 14.
Not only are both seniors heading to the same school as their older siblings, they will also be playing the same sports. What a relief for the parents and their schedules, however, some things may never change.
“It is kind of cool. At the same time, Grace and I are great and get along most of the time, but sometimes you’re with your sibling and just argue,” Wormek said with a smile of the idea of reuniting with his older sister in track and field. “She is always talking about how I need to act right during practice for track in the future and how she is going to keep me focused and not distracted.
“Obviously, she is my older sister and thinks I’m immature and doesn’t trust me around her friends and stuff like that,” he continued with a smile. “It will be fun, but we’ll see how it goes.”
For Griffin, his appointment to the Coast Guard will give him the opportunity to step onto a football field with his older brother for the first time. It may be just for a year as Jay enters his senior year next year, but Eli will soak up every minute of it while he also represented the Bears in track and field.
“That is amazing,” Eli said of the opportunity. “He knows the academy like the back of his hand. He has been helping me through this process since my sophomore year when I started. He has been a great help and football just adds onto that. It is just the icing on the cake.”
Jay may have shown Eli what was possible, but both Griffins were influenced by Earl Farney, a retired Air Force Colonel who served for 27 years and taught Air Force High School ROTC for another 25. Like Jay, Eli’s pursuit of his future began one morning while working at his grandparents’ store, Farris Fruit Market, where he met the colonel.
“He walked in and asked me what I wanted to do in my life. I told him, to be quite honest, I wasn’t sure and he started talking about the military academies and what it meant to him,” Eli recalled of that moment his freshman year. “I kind of felt a connection with him.”
Well, to see another Griffin choose a similar path certainly made the colonel happy and he pointed to the family for keeping the brothers on a bright path.
“I thought that was wonderful to see. Common bond and a launch platform for both of them that will see a good measure of success,” said Farney who attended both signing ceremonies for Jay and Eli. “Their family has done a great job of forming the base of the pyramid. The grandparents, parents and they are what I call the ‘old fashion’ type that believes in hard work, ethics and character building.”
Things quickly changed for Eli when he made the choice to serve and he knew he had to get to work right away. It began with making sure grades in the B range were retaken in the summer before his sophomore year so he could attain A’s instead and increase his chances of getting an appointment at an institution with about a 20 percent acceptance rate. It also meant a plethora of weighted classes in his future.
“I retook four of my freshman classes in two weeks,” he recalled, noting how important it was to not give up in the process. “The teachers are amazing. You just have to find them, get to know them and once you know them they are going to work for you. They are great teachers.”
Eli said he would not be where he is without his teachers at Camdenton as he intends to study cybersecurity while at the Coast Guard. After some time in the military, he would like to join the FBI and continue a career in cybersecurity.
“It means a lot. I finally get to serve my country and make America a better place,” the senior noted. “The is the end goal, to make America better.”
Jay currently majors in O.R.C.A. (Operations, Research and Computer Analysis) at the Coast Guard and Eli intends to follow a similar path.
“They are basically the same major, but O.R.C.A. focuses more on the offensive coding while cyber focuses on defending the code,” Eli explained. They are a little different, but I thought cyber would fit me most.”
Whatever the future holds for the Griffins, Farney referred to them as ‘modern day warriors.’
“I think it is great some of our young people want to develop into officers and enlisted troops and serve the country,” he said. “In my opinion, they will do a great job, what is expected of them and what our country needs.”
It was a future career that attracted Griffin the most among the military academies, but there were also a few other perks besides reuniting with is older brother.
“They are around water and I’m from Lake of the Ozarks and love water,” Eli said with a smile. “Also, they accept about 285 incoming freshmen each year and I would like a class load not full of 60 or 70 kids. They bring in small groups and I would be able to play football and start track and field there. The Coast Guard has just been the dream.”
Speaking of athletics, Griffin is looking forward to getting to work in that as well at the Division III school. Camdenton football coach Jeff Shore is confident he will exceed in that respect as well.
“That is incredible for him to go to an academy. He has a better plan than most adults do and has all his ducks in a row,” Shore pointed out. “He is going to a do a great job and I’m glad football is one step for him to advance on and accomplish all the things he wants to accomplish as he moves forward in life.”
Like academia, Griffin made adjustments on the football field as Camdenton changed its offense from a traditional running team to one that throws the football all over the field and Shore took notice. After racking up 641 career rushing yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry and 28 total touchdowns in three years at the varsity level, the coach found him to be fairly reliable, especially in goal-to-go situations.
“Every time inside the 10-yard line he was our guy carrying the football. He transformed and made himself into a receiver and did both things. He was able to make the transfer and ended up being a good receiver for us and a force.”
Griffin’s best season came as a sophomore where he finished the year with 17 total touchdowns and while Shore commended him for the strides he made in blocking and catching, he also pointed to mental toughness.
“To his credit- and he would never admit it because he was a tough kid- he had a foot injury that bothered him for a year and a half and it was something you have to deal with ion a daily basis. He just toughed it out and did it,” Shore said.
Overall, the coach just wishes there were more Griffins coming through the ranks.
“Incredible, both of those kids. Jay was good about brining him in and they worked out together. He (Eli) watched his older brother and then Eli went in and accomplished a lot of great things as well,” Shore recalled.
“The Griffins have been a huge part of Laker football in a lot of different ways and the success we’ve had. They’ve been a huge part in the toughness, attitude and everything. I’m certainly appreciative of them as a football coach and wish we had more of them.”
Now that a new journey is on the horizon, Eli implores others to stay the course and not take any pitstops. After all, it led him to a place he cannot wait to go to.
“The light at the end of the tunnel will come true. It is a long ride, these four years, but don’t lack,” he said. “Don’t stop trying and keep pushing ahead.”
And, however things play out, Shore will always know he had the privilege of coaching someone like Eli. The same could be said for Jay.
“I have the utmost respect for that,” the coach said of those who find a calling to serve. “A real credit to the parents and adults in his life because that is hard to do. That is a dangerous job and number two, to go out and be able to serve his country- and I know it sounds cliche- but to allow us to live in the greatest country in the world. It is the ultimate compliment to have a kid do that for his community and country.”
Sometimes, life has a funny way of showing how things can work out.
As a seventh grader, Parker never imagined jumping over hurdles could potentially be part of his future. As a sophomore, he was the top seed for the 110-meter hurdles heading into the Class 4 state track and field meet and finished third and after COVID-19 took away his junior season, he recently broke the school record for the event as a senior.
Now, it will be part of his future at the University of Central Missouri.
“It was absolutely awful and I really did not want to do it anymore,” he recalled of hurdling in his seventh grade track and field season. “I was really bad and in eighth grade I started getting the hang of it. My freshman year I realized that two hurdlers I was hurdling with were going to graduate soon and thought we were not going to have any hurdlers if I quit. I kept with it.”
As a sophomore, Wormek decided to get to work on the finer details from increasing his speed to executing the right form. He worked with former Lakers like Natalie Basham, who won a state championship in the 100 meter hurdles and as a member of the 4x400 relay team, and he started to see times come down by the end of the year.
“I started that season and wasn’t great. I was running not super slow, but high 15s, which is still pretty good as a sophomore,” Parker said. “I knew I could get better… It was a super big jump and I was super excited.”
By the time he hit 14.7 seconds in the 110 meter hurdles at sectionals as a sophomore, he knew an old school record belonging to his football coach Jeff Shore was within reach. However, he did not hit the time he needed at state and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he had to effectively wait two years to have another shot at it as a senior. A back injury during football did not make things any easier either as Wormek worked to get back to the level of performance it would require.
Well, finally, a record of 14.6 seconds that has stood for over 30 years since 1986 was broken in a meet at Waynesville on April 23 when Wormek ran a time of 14.48 in the 110 meter hurdles.
“Breaking any of our school records is tough because we have had so many talented athletes in our school’s history,” Camdenton boys track and field coach Nick Bruck said.
The old record holder wasn’t too disappointed either.
“I’m glad. That is a great performance and that’s a long time and good accomplishment for him,” Shore said of the feat.
It is just one example of what can happen with six years of perfecting a craft and Wormek is now excited to continue that journey in Warrensburg.
“Being able to work hard enough to continue what I was doing and build more of a lifestyle out of it is really nice,” the senior said. “Usually in high school, I’ve got a summer job, don’t do anything over the summer and then I go into football and work a little bit in track and field over the winter and then it’s track time. Going collegiate with it, I’m doing track stuff all year round. It is nice to be able to focus on one specific thing and see how I can build more off that, rather than just having a few months at a time to do it.”
It is a trait Parker values, focusing on the finer details, if he is going to invest his time in something. He knew from the time he took the hurdles seriously that it would require extra work if he was going to see progression.
“In high school, you have to understand that there are good coaches, but they spend their whole day as teachers and don’t spend forever watching your films and seeing what you can do,” the senior explained.
“High school coaches coach and study you for three hours a day and college coaches are not paid to teach. They spend their entire day watching and critiquing you. You have to work harder outside because I would spend three hours a day on the weekends at the track and an hour and a half on weekdays to work on hurdles.”
That, and the school’s proximity to the Lake, was also what influenced Parker’s decision to attend Central Missouri as opposed to some Division I schools the senior said he received offers from. The senior said there are more levels of coaching at the Division I level, like a hierarchy, and he wanted that one-on-one experience.
“Being able to work with a head coach as my hurdling coach was a nice thought and I thought it wold be super cool,” Parker said of Coach Kip Janvrin, a former U.S. Olympic decathlete. “Not only is the head coach my coach, but an olympian is also my coach, so that is what set Central Missouri off for me and I was happy about that.”
Not only will Parker be joining his older sister, but 2019 Laker graduate Trenton Flug as well at his new school. So, there will certainly be some familiarity.
“We are always fortunate when a student athlete of ours is talented enough to continue their track career at the collegiate level,” Bruck noted. “Parker’s work ethic is how he has been able to improve his times as the hurdles combine speed and technique.”
Parker said he currently remains undecided on his major, but the senior emphasized how important it was to keep grades up so those future opportunities remain attainable. It ultimately pointed to a path the senior had no intention of pursuing as a seventh grader.
“It is just keeping that focus and the grind on,” the senior stated.