Varsity Track and Field

Track has always been a family affair for Wilsons

Ryan Wilson started competing in track about the time his grandfather, Herm, the former Wichita State track and cross country coach, was inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

The younger Wilson admittedly was more in awe of NFL coach Bill Parcells being a part of the hall of fame class, but he quickly was indoctrinated into his family's rich track history.

"A few of his former athletes were talking about (him)," Ryan said. "That was kind of my first big exposure to my family and the track history."

During Ryan's own career, he heard plenty more stories about his family's rich connection to track in the years since that induction ceremony.

The Wilson family is one of many Kansas track families whose name continues to be recognized, even now heading into the 100th state track meet today and Saturday.

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The Wilson family's foray into track started with Herm, who remembers well winning his initial race in first grade. He started pole vaulting in fourth grade and won the 1944 Class B pole vault for Conway Springs at 11 feet, three inches. He competed at Kansas and Kansas State, too.

In addition to coaching at WSU, he was president of the U.S. Track Coaches Association in 1976 and continues to build all-weather tracks.

One of his sons, Don, was a decathlete at Wichita State during Herm's coaching tenure. Today, Don an official at the state meet. Herm's youngest son, Doug, won team titles while at Kapaun and then was the Texas Relays director for nearly two decades.

"I'm real proud, of course," Herm said.

It might seem that track careers for Don's sons, Ryan and Brice, were destiny.

Competing for Heights, Ryan won the Class 6A 1600 and 3200 in 2002, and the 1600 in 2003; Brice won the 110 hurdles in 2004. Ryan was in the steeplechase at Texas, while Brice was a hurdler at Iowa. Brice has helped the Heights hurdlers this season.

But neither felt obligated to compete in track.

"Going out for track felt natural," Brice said. "It wasn't expected.... It was our dream to run."

Ryan added: "The family history and everything else, which as a kid, I could care less about, but as I got older, it was what I wanted to do, and that (family history) was an extra perk of it."

They both played multiple sports, including soccer, at Heights, but gravitated toward the track. Once they did, their parents and grandfather embraced it.

Don, on the managerial side, coordinated trips to track meets and worked with the Andover Track Club. His focus was more on organizing and ensuring his sons warmed up and cooled down properly.

Herm was more hands-on with Ryan and Brice. Even more so than he was with Don. With Don, as he coached full-time, he was spread thin. Even when they were both at Wichita State, Herm wasn't Don's direct coach.

But Herm had more free time when Ryan and Brice were in high school, so he was there to help.

"He loves to coach," Brice said. "He's out there coaching us, he's running Ryan through workouts, his distance stuff. He's giving me technique drills, how to get out of my starting blocks."

Herm's knowledge was critical for Ryan.

"I learned a lot from my grandpa on different types of form drills and how to run barriers and racing tactics," Ryan said. "A lot of that comes naturally when you're used to racing, but if you try to run normal tactics in steeplechase, you'll not finish. You have to know what you're doing. Having him here helping me out was a plus."

For Herm, being a part of his grandsons' career was a bonus.

"It was so great to have the boys, particularly my grandsons, in track because I got to watch them," said Herm, 82. "For a person my age, working with them, it made me feel younger.... It's been very rewarding. I'm very blessed.