In Pursuit of Success
One local athlete and two coaches strive to chase dreams and execute visions.
The athletic world abounds with sensational stories of hope, faith and perseverance. Athletes and coaches alike often face incredible odds only to conquer those challenges and rise above myriad obstacles.
While the national press headlines often present tales behind well-known names, that same spotlight doesn’t always shine on some of the most inspirational stories of all; simple stories of everyday perseverance that occur right in our own backyards.
Meet one local young athlete and two area coaches who exemplify what it really means to work hard toward and achieve goals.
Close to goal not good enough
Closeness only counts in horse shoes, hand grenades and atomic weapons. Just ask Rockhurst High School senior and Overland Park resident Zach Herriott.
“I finished 26th at state (in cross-country) as a sophomore,” he says. “I was one place from making all-state.”
Getting that close to his goal proved to be a significant catalyst for this tall, slightly built senior.
“That was the turning point in my career,” he says. “I hadn’t been pushing myself in practice. I was really disappointed because my goal was to make all-state. After that I made running a priority.”
Herriott listened more to his coach Michael Dierks.
“I knew if I was going to get better, I needed a good workout program,” he says.
When the state meet came around in November 2010, Herriott had the top time of 15:30.55 and the individual championship. While he had excelled in track at Ascension Grade School in Overland Park, he has not had as much success in track in high school.
“I usually come up a little short,” he says.
In fact, he faced disappointment at the state track meet in late May. After leading the 3,200-meters (a distance a little less than two miles) for most of the race he was passed in the last part of the race finishing fourth in 9:16.15.
However, he worked hard during the summer months and is prepared to defend his individual cross-country championship and win the 3,200 in state track.
“I want to repeat as state (cross-country) champion,” he says. “I am not sure if that has been done in Class 4. I want to be an All-American in cross-country.”
Tradition never graduates
Terry Flynn started the volleyball program at the new Blue Valley West High School in 2001. Flynn wanted to emulate the success and tradition of Lawrence High School volleyball, which won 15 state titles from 1975 through 1995.
“I believe that tradition is huge,” she says. “We talk about it and it has been very effective. We work hard on tradition. We build on individual strengths and try to maximize those at the end of the season. I have tried to build a program that emphasizes the lifetime benefits of the sport.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, her Jaguars have advanced to state eight of the 10 years the school has been open. They won the Class 5A state title in 2005, have been second at state five times and been sub-state champions eight times.
Additionally, her BV West teams have posted a record of 262-139. The program has produced 17 players who have earned scholarships to play the sport on the collegiate level.
Interestingly, she did not know much about volleyball until her years at Shawnee Mission East in the early 70s.
“I was a swimmer,” she says. “A volleyball player asked me to come to a practice and that started it.”
Flynn went on to play at the University of Kansas.
Her first coaching job came in 1978 at Shawnee Mission Northwest. She left the school in 1985, and her replacement was Cindy Roach. Roach is now the athletic director at BV West.
Flynn, who looks like she has been coaching 10 years instead of 32, has been an assistant coach on the college level and served as men’s and women’s volleyball coach at Park College for three years.
She then coached on the high school level for nine years before starting the program at BV West.
There is no doubt it will be exciting to watch the success that unfolds for Flynn in the years to come … and how she keeps the inspiration of tradition alive.
Friendships call McCall back
Friend and family connections can be binding forces with tremendous appeal.
First-year Blue Valley North football coach John McCall—who resided and coached in Johnson County only to leave and eventually return—knows this all too well.
“I have a lot of friends in the Kansas City area,” the new Mustangs coach says. “I missed the relationships. Seeing those people again has been special. I left a lot of close friends here.”
In addition, his wife, Emily, is from Topeka and wanted to get back to the area.
“She was motivated to get back here,” he says.
From 1994 through the 2002 season, McCall served as assistant coach at Olathe North.
Long-time Olathe North Eagles coach Gene Weir left for Richland High School in North Richland Hills, a suburb in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, in the spring of 2003 and McCall became the head coach at Olathe North. He subsequently won the Class 6A state title in 2003 and finished second in 2004.
The Chillicothe, Mo., native then opted to join Weir in Texas in 2005 where he served as the defensive coordinator.
That was until connections in Kansas City led him to consider being a head coach again and moving to BV North in 2011.
Now, back in familiar territory, McCall forges ahead into his third season as a varsity head football coach.