Casey Helm is an elite high school track and field athlete
Madison High School (KS) track and field athlete Casey Helm has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments during his tenure with the Bulldogs, including a 4.0 grade point average; consecutive Kansas High School Activities Association Boys Class 1A shot put and discus championships; and setting a new boys high school state record in the discus event.
But that’s not how the Princeton University-bound senior gets recognized while studying USA TODAY High School Sports Awards national broadcast Premiere on July 31, 2022 wants to be remembered.
“I want my legacy to be not necessarily the achievements of the sport, but the teammate, friend and person I was on the field and at school,” he said. “You never know what someone’s going through, so I think it’s more important to show them that you’re there for them.”
Madison High School track and field head coach Alex McMillian said the mindset is a prime example of what makes Helm the person he is.
“He’s just one of those kids who will be nice to another kid no matter the situation,” said McMillian, who also serves as the school’s head football coach. “He just wants to make friends with as many people as possible and build a positive relationship with those people. That becomes contagious. When you have a whole school of people with that approach, it makes my job as a coach a lot easier.”
Helm’s grandfather, Fred McClain, a member of the coaching staff of the Madison High School track team, introduced the 2021-2022 Gatorade Kansas Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year Award winner to the sport when Helm was in elementary school.
“My grandpa was a track coach for many years and one day when I was in fourth or fifth grade he brought home a girls disc from track practice and told me to see if I could throw it over our fence in our yard.” , Helm recalled, “I practiced for a couple of weeks, just figuring it out for myself, and when I finally made it over the fence, I realized that throwing the discus is pretty much fun.”
Helm thanked McClain that by the time he reached junior high school, after a year and a half to two years, he was more experienced than most other student-athletes.
“And I just fell in love with the sport,” said Helm. “He made it possible for me to get into athletics. I owe my success to him for getting me running at a young age. He was my coach the whole time.”
The Bulldogs have achieved consecutive second places in Boys Class 1A and McMillian commended the team for buying into the system.
“Our kids bought into the strength training program, especially kids like Casey, who came into my weight room as a little boy in sixth or seventh grade and was one of the strongest guys in the state by the time he was junior and senior,” McMillian said. “Having a successful program makes my job easier because I have some of the best assistant coaches in the state of Kansas. The kids are looking forward to track season and it definitely shows when we win championships and compete in state championships.”
During his senior year, Helm surpassed the 200-foot plateau in discus for the first time during the Eureka Invitational, but more was to come when the Bulldogs hosted the Madison Invitational a few weeks later.
“I threw an outdoor PR (personal record) in the shot put and broke 60 feet outdoors for the first time,” Helm said. “I switched to discus and threw a new PR of 214 ft, 1 inch, which set the all-time state record in discus. It was really a cloud nine moment that day because I did PR at both of my events.”
Helm broke the previous all-time discus throw record of 213-6, set in 1980 by Shawnee Mission South’s Clint Johnson.
“When I was a little kid, all I could dream of was beating Clint Johnson’s all-time state discus record,” Helm said. “Clint Johnson is a legend in Kansas and to break that record was very special.”
A standout performer on the grid as well as in the throwing circle, Helm acknowledged that it would be difficult to make a decision on whether to pursue football or track and field at the next level.
“For pretty much my entire childhood, I thought I wanted to play college football,” he said. “I wanted to do that until about a year and a half ago. It wasn’t an easy decision. I felt like I couldn’t pursue both of them in college at the same time because I’m a 100 percent giver. Ultimately, it was not only about the sporting but also about the academic opportunity.”
Helm, who said he received college offers to continue his football career as well as his track and field career, said once Princeton University came into the picture he could not pass on the opportunity.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “For a while, not knowing where I was going to go was bothering me because that was all I thought about in my free time. After my official visit, I somehow knew that I wanted to be there. It really felt like home. Princeton has a great track and field team. And they compete nationally as a team and as individuals.”
McMillian said Helm’s chance was well deserved.
“He’s a very competitive kid,” said McMillian. “The amount of time he invests in the sport outside of training is what makes him special. He’s one of the most consistent pitchers I’ve seen. Usually, when you throw things that far, you’re not very consistent. But the level of consistency with Casey is pretty incredible.”
Helm encourages Bulldog undergraduates to give their all to whatever project they choose to pursue.
“If you try halfway, you’re never going to see the results you want to see,” said Helm, who also volunteers with Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics and blood drives. “Don’t make it all out of yourself, make it out of the team and the community. The Madison community, faculty, staff and teachers are the people who have brought me to where I am today. I am grateful to them and I never take anything for granted.”