SYRACUSE — To hear Luke Griner tell it, he just sort of felt like he belonged at West Point.
The Wawasee middle distance and distance star signed on to continue his track and field career at the United States Military Academy Preparatory School in New York last week. Already interested in MAPS for more than a year, he made up his mind after a visit to the academy, when he saw how the demeanor of the cadets already attending matched his own.
“I went to a leadership meeting with Mr. (WHS Assistant Principal Vince) Beasley over a year ago and got connections with some West Point people there and learned what it was all about. I was like ‘Man, I’m really into this,’” recalled Griner. “I got in contact with the track coach and talked to him weekly for about a year. I went on a visit and everybody there, they kind of acted similar to myself, and I figured ‘Oh, this is a really good place to go. I think I should go here.’”
Early in his senior season with Wawasee track, Griner has already distinguished himself as one of the program’s all-time best. He earned Northern Lakes Conference, sectional and regional championships in his specialty, the 800, as both a sophomore and a junior in 2016 and 2017, earning all-state finishes at the state finals both year. He placed ninth in the half-mile as a sophomore and eighth at last spring’s boys track finale. He also holds the distinction of having made state in cross country in 2017 following an Elkhart Central Sectional-championship performance about a month prior.
According to Wawasee boys track coach Frank Pizana, Griner represents the best possible combination of natural talent and work ethic.
“One of the things that I enjoy about Luke is his dedication, his work ethic. He’s one of those kids that you just love to work with because he always wants to do extra,” Pizana explained. “He doesn’t complain. He puts in the work. So work ethic and the talent that he has, it’s just a great combination. It’s hard to find. Sometimes you have a talented kid who does not put the work in, but when you have the combination of both, it’s great. He’s just one of those kids that you’d love to have on any team if you possibly could.”
The Knights are an NCAA Division I track and field team competing in the Patriot League. As a service academy, the lead-up to MAPS has been a little different than what’s involved for most DI athletes, and Griner has already completed a number of medical and physical tests as well as submitting essays to the school. He’ll report to a three-week boot camp in mid-July before officially enrolling next fall.
Griner says he chose West Point “To become the best possible version of myself” but isn’t yet sure of his intended field of study. He’s going to get his feet under him at the academy first and see the full range of options before he decides.
“There’s a number of different officer jobs you can get. I don’t have to decide until the middle of my sophomore year, I think it is. I’m really not sure. I want to see what I kind of like while I’m there,” he said.