A huge smile appeared on the face of Blue Springs senior Daniel Parker when the three-sport standout was asked about today’s Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships at Jefferson City High School.
He’s going to kick off the meet at 9:30 a.m., competing in the shot put. He will throw the discus on Saturday.
“I know everyone who goes to state is excited,” said Parker, who leaves in a few days to start his college football career at Missouri, where he is expected to make an impact on the defensive line as a freshman, “but no one can be more excited than I am after what happened last year.”
Parker, who was fourth at state in the discus as a sophomore, was ranked No. 1 last year in his specialty, only to fail to make it out of sectionals. He finished a disappointing fifth, and the top four finishers advance to state.
“That was tough – maybe the toughest thing that’s ever happened to me,” said Parker, The Examiner’s Offensive Player of the Year (the first offensive lineman to ever win the award), who also starred on the Wildcats defensive line, where he came within half a sack (18.5 to 18) of sharing present-day San Francisco 49ers linebacker Elijah Lee’s single-season mark.
“It was like losing the state championship football game and breaking up with your girlfriend on the same day. And to this day, I don’t know what happened. I just didn’t have it – but that disappointment made me stronger this year and I’m going to put on a show at 9:30 Friday morning.”
Parker punched his ticket to state with a career-best, first-place throw of 183 feet, 2 inches last Saturday at the Class 5 Sectional 4 meet at William Chrisman High School and was third in the shot put (52-3.5).
“I was real happy with the way I threw in sectionals,” Parker said. “Now, it’s all about getting points for our team. I want to get to state this year and help us win back-to-back state championships.”
It would be Parker’s first state title in any sport. The football team lost the state title game his junior and senior years and Parker was not part of last year’s Wildcats state championship track and field team.
“I know how motivated Mr. Parker is,” said Wildcats track coach Joe Cusack, who has led Blue Springs to state championships in three of the past four seasons. “When he was fourth in the discus, we were third as a team.
“I know how much he wants to contribute to a state championship and I want to bring home the state championship this season because Daniel has meant so much to the football, basketball (he was a member of The Examiner’s All-Area basketball team last year after averaging 25 points a game) and track teams.
“He deserves to have a ring on his finger and everyone is going to work to make that happen.”
Parker believes Lee’s Summit North, which upset the Wildcats for the team title at the sectional meet last week, has the talent to win state, which he believes will bring out the best in his Wildcat teammates.
“North is going to state with the big target on their backs, and that’s fine with us,” Parker said. “You know, I have so much respect for that team. All their kids are classy and humble, and they beat us at sectionals and that just made us want to win state even more.
“Personally, I have a big score to settle. Just talking about the discus, I felt like I let everyone down last year and that is a horrible feeling. I have redeemed myself by getting to state this year; now, I have to score some big points so we can get that championship.
“As long as we get a championship, I don’t care what I do. But I know, the more I do, the more points I score, the better our chances of winning a state title.”