Every day, Maurice Mitchell wakes up and asks the same question: “Will someone please pinch me so I know this is all real?”

Every day, Maurice Mitchell wakes up and asks the same question: “Will someone please pinch me so I know this is all real?”

The Raytown South High School grad, who led the Cardinals to their first state championship by winning the 100, 200 and 400 meters and anchoring the winning 400 relay team, went on to enjoy the same success for the NCAA national champion Florida State University track and field team.

  Mitchell won back-to-back NCAA outdoor 200 championships at Florida State, where he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Track Performer of the Year five times.

  He left the program with a diploma and 10 All-American honors.

  And now, he is representing his country at the Summer Games in London.

“I still can’t believe I’m going,” said Mitchell, who will compete in the 200 and likely in a relay event – although the U.S. relay teams have not been announced. “I knew I was part of the team when I looked at the scoreboard (in Eugene, Ore., the site of the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials). But it took a while for it all to soak in.

“Now, that I’m getting ready to head over to London, I’m still like, ‘This can’t be happening to me.’”

The skinny kid whose snapshot is on the kitchen wall at Tim’s Pizza, is about to go big time. But he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

“Tell the guys at Tim’s I’m coming to see them after the Olympics,” Mitchell said. “And tell Mr. (Allen) Lefko I want to see him, too.”

Lefko, the chairman of the board of the Bank of Grain Valley, often had lunch with Mitchell at Tim’s.

“We’d talk about accounting,” Lefko said. “Now, were going to be watching him in the Olympics. The world needs more young men like Maurice Mitchell.”

Mitchell entered the Olympic Trials 200 with the fastest qualifying time, and finished second to Wallace Spearmon Jr., 19.82 seconds to 20.14. The top three runners in each event qualified for the Olympics.

His face may one day be on billboards, yet when reminded of the photo in Tim’s, where he and co-owners Tim and Steve Pace are taking a pizza out of the oven, he started to laugh.

“They still have that picture?” Mitchell asked. “Oh, my goodness gracious. I was a skinny little kid who thought he had done it all. Back then, I dreamed about the Olympics.

“Now, I’m going.”

While starring at Raytown South, Mitchell was like the Pied Piper. He was always followed by young fans who asked to wear his sunglasses or for one of the colorful wristbands he wore to each event.

“I’ve got a lot of new friends now,” Mitchell said, “but I know who my real friends are. That’s why this is so important for me. They might not be with me in London, but I know they are going to be with me in spirit. They’re going to be watching and praying for me and I can promise them that I will give it my best shot.

“And when it’s all over, I’ll come back town and we’ll all have some pizza. There’s going to be a lot to talk about.”