With five Free State High track athletes sharing a college signing ceremony Wednesday, Firebirds coach Steve Heffernan decided for a change of scenery.
Instead of experiencing the typical indoor gathering, seniors Kain Anderson, Lynn Robinson, Dayshawn Berndt, Khadijah Lane and Kamp Wiebe put their names on the dotted line outside in the sun, on Free State’s track — just yards away from where they and their teammates were about to practice.
“I kind of like the atmosphere down here on the track,” Anderson said after signing his national letter of intent with Wichita State University.
But there was one challenge that accompanied the scene. As Heffernan introduced the athletes and shared stories about each of them, rounds of applause followed from their nearby family, friends and teammates.
“I had to be careful when I clapped,” Robinson said after signing with Kansas University, “because my paper would blow away.”
The ceremony reminded Robinson of what a big deal it was to have five athletes moving on to the collegiate level — Berndt and Lane, wearing matching T-shirts, signed with Baker University, while Wiebe signed with Johnson County Community College.
“It’s really cool to have five of us that have been working really, really hard for, like, four years,” he said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other. We’re all really good friends, and just to have so many of us signing here on the same day is a special thing.”
The athletes, Heffernan shared, went through some adversity to reach this point. Wiebe hadn’t experienced much success before taking off last spring, as a junior. Both Lane and Berndt have battled injuries in past seasons.
For Robinson, the struggle was giving up one dream to concentrate on another.
“Ever since elementary school, I thought I’d go to college and play basketball,” Robinson said.
Anderson battled increasingly greater expectations as his career progressed. Hard work carried him to a runner-up finish at the state cross country meet last fall.
“I did everything I could,” Anderson said after signing up with WSU track and cross country. “This is my life, and I love every part of it.”