Nick Janke is no stranger to success at Rolla high school.
The recent grad spent most of his career playing four sports and was on some of the Bulldogs' most successful teams ever in soccer, basketball track and football. When Janke was in the early stages of his career, he said he learned some important lessons from several of the older players about hard work and those lessons certainly paid off.
"For basketball, Kobe Wands, he probably had one of the best work ethics I've seen. He was our best player, but he also worked the hardest at practice and kept working to get better. When a lot of other guys would relax and slack off, he would really keep working to get better. That really showed me what you need to do for success," said Janke. "In track, we had a lot of good athletes like Jordan Kaden and James Kosbar that really just trained a lot I saw that you had to put a lot of time in to be a really talented athlete in track. That really showed me what I needed to do to get better and be successful in high school track."
Janke turned those lessons of hard work into a ton of success. The recent Rolla grad was All-State in soccer as both a junior and a senior, while also earning Missouri Defensive Player of the Year honors as a junior. Coming into his senior season, he was on the watch list as a potential All-American candidate. Janke earned All-State honors for three straight seasons for track. He also added several All-District and Conference honors to that list, but he has never been one to go around and gloat about any accomplishments. Instead, Janke prefers to share the success with his team and stay humble.
"It was definitely important to stay humble for me, because really I wouldn't have done it all without the team around me too, that really helps," said Janke. "I definitely couldn't take all the credit for myself, so I've tried to stay humble throughout all the awards."
Janke's success story throughout his time at Rolla came with a lot of peaks and valleys. As a freshman Rolla soccer was in the rare position of struggling, but Janke found himself as a key contributor in the starting lineup. He then got into the winter season with basketball, where mono kept him on the sidelines early and he spent most of the season with the JV as the varsity had one of their best seasons. By the end of his time in high school, the soccer team played in back to back Sectionals, scoring the game-winning goal during Sectionals in his junior season to play in a State Quarterfinal. Janke then kicked for the football team and saw the Bulldogs make it to the State Quarterfinal for the first time in his life as a senior. After that, Janke was on the basketball team as they made it back to Sectionals as a senior, followed by three straight trips to State in track.
All of those teams seemed to have a common thread and that was having coaching staffs that wanted their players to come together as a team. This years' crop of teams showed that a lot of success can come from a team that plays as a unit and cares about each other.
"A lot of what I learned was that you need to work together as a team to have success. It doesn't really matter how good of a player you are if you don't work as a team. You have to be able to bring it all together and be close as a group on and off the field or court really helps too," said Janke. "My junior year, that really helped a lot, because we were all good friends, all the main players of the year. That really brought us together and we kinda worked for each other and not just ourselves and I think that really pushed us over the edge and made us a lot better."
Janke is fortunate to have played for some of the biggest legends of Rolla athletics. In soccer, head coach Mike Howard has over 800 career wins and has shepherded Rolla soccer basically since the program began. Head basketball coach Mark Miller has also had some of the most successful seasons in Rolla basketball history, leading Rolla to State Sectionals twice in the last four years and a State Quarterfinal in 2015. In the spring, Janke had the chance to play for head coach Don Knapp, who has led the Rolla track team for almost 40 years. Finally for football, Rolla seems to have found their next coach to have long term success, as Jon Franks has pulled the Bulldogs out of years of failure to it's best season in over 20 years in 2017. Janke knows this lineup of amazing coaching has played a huge role in his development over the last four years.
"It definitely helped a lot, especially having consistent good coaching. Coach Knapp coached me a lot individually over my four years and really helped me grow as an athlete and really diversify in the events. I came in mostly just doing high jump and he helped me really train and do a lot of other things too and taught me a lot of other events also," said Janke. "Having coach Howard and coach Miller being consistent and really successful coaches, the teams really respect the coaches and you can tell that. Listening to coach and really looking up and respecting what he said, there wasn't arguing amongst the team, we really trusted our leaders and that really helped us stay calm and organized."
All of that success culminated in one of the best all-around year in Rolla athletics history. First the soccer team made it to Sectionals for the second year in a row, but fell in a heart-breaker to rival Glendale. In the very same fall season, Rolla made it to their first State Quarterfinal in football since 1994. That momentum carried into the winter, where the basketball team had one of their best seasons ever. After taking their first loss in their third game of the year, the Bulldogs went two and a half months without another loss and eventually won the District Championship to earn a Sectional berth. In the spring, the baseball team won their first District title since 2015, while Janke individually carried that momentum into the track season, where he qualified for State and medaled for the third straight year. The Rolla four-sport athlete said his senior year was certainly a wild ride.
"It was awesome being part of two really successful teams both at the same time. It's like we knew the team wouldn't lose and just kept going. It was really great to be a part of both. They were both kinda different, but they were both really successful and really fun to be around," said Janke of the fall season. He said that early success helped fuel the basketball team in the winter. "I think we just all saw that we were good enough to win in another sport and we just all thought that we were good enough and we could do it in basketball too. It kind of boosted our confidence and helped us relax and play to our fullest ability. We really got together as a team and realized we could be really good together and play well."
With that success came a lot of school pride in athletics, which Janke said helped fuel even more success.
"I think it's caused kinda more school pride in our athletics and really boosted us. A lot more of the school kinda backing the sports it seemed like," said Janke. "They got more into it and supported us really well and that helped boost our momentum even more having so much support from the student body and all the staff too."
As a senior, Janke had the added benefit of getting to watch his sister, Rebecca, flourish in several of the same seasons. After a great volleyball run, the Rolla girls basketball team went from bottom-feeders in the Ozark Conference to playing in a District Championship. Rebecca was a huge part of that team, as well as a player that really came into her own in track, as the sophomore nearly made it to State in the javelin. Nick had a lot of fun getting to see his sister make her own stamp on Rolla athletics during his senior year.
"It was really fun having (Rebecca) there with me and having someone to talk to. It was definitely fun to watch her grow and get more successful this year," said Nick. "It was a lot of fun. Having the girls there, especially having my sister on the team, definitely got some rivalry and kept it fun. We had some friendly competition that really helped us a lot."
Janke may be done with high school sports, but he isn't done with athletics yet. The recent Rolla grad will go to Missouri S&T next year and compete on the track team. After having a sport in every season, sometimes even two, Janke is looking forward to honing in on one sport and finally have an offseason for the first time in a long time.
"I am looking forward to being able to train the rest of the year, because I haven't really had an offseason in a while to really just focus on one thing," said Janke. "I think having the fall and most of the winter to be able to just train and focus on track will be nice."
For now, Janke can finally enjoy a summer that isn't filled with constant camps in various sports. It gives him a chance to reflect on some of his favorite moments over his four years at Rolla.
"Competing at the State Meet has been really special, there's nothing really like it in the other sports how all of the best people are there," said Janke. "Also winning Districts in basketball last year and probably one of the most memorable was scoring the winning goal for Sectionals my junior year in soccer, that was a big moment and a lot of fun."
The list of great memories and accomplishments is a mile long for Janke, he just wants the generations after him to learn from his example of hard work and humility.
"I definitely tried to show a lot of younger kids that same work ethic and being more humble," said Janke. "Younger kids like to talk a lot and think they're the best, but they don't really put in the hard work. I tried to show them and lead by example really how to be more successful."