WARSAW – Jake Poyner was much more than just the best runner on the best boys cross country team in Warsaw Community High School history this past fall.
Poyner’s talent was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the thoughtful, humble and bright young man brought to the table for coach Jim Mills’ program.
Poyner, who epitomizes the total package as a student-athlete, has decided to take his immense array of talents to Wake Forest University to run for the Deamon Deacons in both cross country and track and field in the ACC.
Poyner, who led the Tigers to a fourth-place finish at the State Finals in October, chose Wake Forest last week after a visit there in early December.
“Wake was the last school I visited and the difference was that everything clicked there for me,” said Poyner, who also visited Alabama, Kentucky, Cornell and Lipscomb on his five official college visits. “I could see myself being at Wake. I really like their coach, it’s a small school in warm climate and a good school academically.
“The thing I really liked too was that the coaches were pointing out other things in addition to the running part of it. There’s more to what I’m trying to do than just the running. It just felt like a good fit for me.”
“This is all just a huge blessing for me. What a wonderful opportunity I have. It’s hard for me to take credit for this. I’ve been blessed to have great parents, a great support system and great coaches over the years.”
Poyner had a senior season to remember for Mills’ ultra-talented team. He helped the Tigers win the Northern Lakes Conference title, claim sectional and regional championships and then a second-place finish in the semi state before a program best-ever effort of fourth place at the State Meet in Terre Haute. Poyner won the individual title at both the Culver Academy Regional and New Prairie Semistate and then was fourth overall at the State Finals in 15:37. Poyner did not compete at the Culver Academy Sectional as Mills chose to rest him for the regional round of the state tournament series.
Poyner, who earned All-State honors and was a member of the Indiana All-Star team, certainly left quite the impression on his coach.
“Jake is just a one of kind,” said Mills. “He’s just a genuine person. There’s nothing fake about Jake. I have two boys and I would love both of them to be like Jake.
“He led our team this year, there’s no doubt about it. He’s someone who does the right things. His attention to detail and his ability to do the extra things is what separates him. He’s proven that going the extra step makes the difference.
“I think he made a great decision to go to Wake. He had a lot of opportunities. Coach Hunt (Wake assistant coach Brad Hunt) is from Elkhart and he had that Indiana connection. He really kept a close eye on Jake during the recruiting process.”
Poyner, who played soccer his freshman year at WCHS, is glad to have his decision made and focus now on the upcoming track season in the spring.
“I’m definitely glad to have this checked off,” said Poyner of his college choice. “It’s bittersweet. I struggled with the process at times and it was stressful at time. I’m definitely looking forward to the next part of the journey.”
Poyner, who has been involved heavily with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at WCHS, does look back though with fondness on being a part of such a special team his senior year.
“It’s just amazing how much our team and our coaches evolved the last 2-3 years,” Poyner said. “There was just a lot of growth. There were a lot of great guys who put in the efforts for us to accomplish what we did.
“The thing I’m going to take from it and miss the most are the friendships. It was pretty awesome.
“My whole thing was that I just wanted to treat people well. I wanted to do the right thing more than just the successful thing. I want to be someone who’s remembered as someone who cared about other people.”
There’s no doubt he did that.
No doubt at all.