COLONY — There are few names as synonymous with a school’s athletic legacy as Travis Hermreck at Crest High school.
First, he rewrote the school’s record books as a standout basketball player in the late 1980s and early 1990s, then returned to take the Lancer basketball team to even greater heights as a coach.
But with son Tyson graduating from high school this season, and Hermreck’s other duties as Crest principal and athletic director keeping him plenty busy, he’s hanging up his coach’s whistle.
“I’m not retired,” he joked. “Just tired.”
Hermreck will remain as principal, a role he took on seven years ago after teaching history at Crest his first eight years back at the school.
“Coaching takes so much time and energy away from those jobs,” he noted. “I figure 23 years is a good run.”
Hermreck’s career includes the last 15 as head coach.
His oldest son, Hayden, plays basketball at Allen Community College, and plans to continue his playing days at a yet-to-be-determined four-year school. (Like his father, Hayden has his plans set on coaching.)
“It’s kind of programmed into him to ride out the playing so he can step into the next career,” noted Herrmreck, who also has two daughters still in high school.
“I don’t know what they’re gonna be doing,” he said. “But I want to be free to chase them around.”
HERMRECK’S love of coaching, and athletics in general, stemmed from a childhood that revolved around sports.
“My dad has always been really involved with Little League and things like that.”
Watching sports, in person or on TV, became a nightly ritual.
But young Hermreck soon found himself as much enthralled with the strategy as the result.
“I liked to analyze what was going on,” he recalled. “It became a fun study.”
When it came time to step on the field himself, Hermreck focused on baseball and basketball.
“I’m sure there was a time I wanted to be a baseball player,” he said.
He was pretty good at it, too. But without a high school baseball team at Crest, his playing days were limited to rec leagues and the Garnett American Legion team when he was in high school.
He also shined briefly on the football field, starting at quarterback his freshman season, but soon decided to focus solely on basketball at Crest.
There’s a good reason.
He was quite good at it.
It took all of three games as a freshman before Hermreck had scored 20 points in a game.
By the time his high school days had ended, Hermreck was a three-time all-state performer. (And he earned honorable mention as a freshman.)
Hermreck averaged 23.5 points per game through high school, and was named a finalist for the McDonald’s All-American team his senior year in 1992.
His teammates were no slouches, either, and Crest brought home a fourth-place trophy at the state tournament his junior year. The Lancers spent much of his senior season as the second-ranked team in the state, but were upset in the substate finals. “We didn’t quite make it,” he said.
And like son Hayden today, Hermreck knew his plans after his playing days ended.
“I always wanted to coach,” he said. “I couldn’t see myself doing anything but being a coach.”
The only addendum came as he was starting high school. “I decided I wanted to be a history teacher, too.”
WITH THOSE goals in mind, Hermreck extended his playing career as long as he could.
He signed out of high school to play junior college basketball at Butler County, but lasted barely two weeks before transferring to Allen County.
“I got to Butler and it was a total culture shock,” he recalled. “I wasn’t prepared to get out of the house. I guess I needed a little smaller step. I was pretty sheltered in a lot of ways, when it came to how the world worked.”
Because of the transfer, Hermreck had to sit out a year before he could play basketball.
So that led him to sign on with the Red Devil baseball team as well.
So began an eventful two years with Allen, playing baseball and basketball, before moving on to Emporia State, then to Ottawa University, where he wrapped up his playing days with the Braves basketball and baseball teams.
It should come as no surprise that on top of his prolific athletic ability, Hermreck attributes much of his success to his mental approach.
“I could be the worst shooter in the gym, but in my mind I was the best shooter in the gym, and nobody was going to convince me otherwise,” he said.
WITH HIS playing days in the rear view mirror, Hermreck’s teaching and coaching career began.
It so happened he student taught for a year at Waverly, which allowed him to work as an assistant basketball coach under the legendary Mike Hevel, whose 46-year coaching career included four state titles and 850 combined football and basketball victories.
Hermreck soaked up Hevel’s knowledge like a sponge.
From there, he moved on to Caldwell, where his principal, Allen Jameson, had coached the previous 17 years before handing the reins to Hermreck. “He mentored me, talked me through the tough times,” Hermreck said. “Coming out of the gate, I had two of the best mentors I could have possibly had.”
Caldwell, like Crest, is a small school that, while lacking in numbers, had an abundance of youngsters willing to do whatever was necessary to succeed.
Hermreck affectionately called his players, the “short and fats.”
“They were short and round, but they played so hard,” he chuckled. “They gave me everything I wanted. I have some pretty special memories of that place.”
The Bluejays enjoyed a successful run in Hermreck’s eight years as coach, even qualifying for the state tournament one year.
“We kind of had an epic collapse there,” Hermreck recalled. The Bluejays surrendered a seven-point lead in the final 36 seconds, after missing eight straight free throws.
HERMRECK was perfectly content in Caldwell, but the siren’s song of home soon began tickling his ear.
More specifically, it was his father, Glen.
“My dad kept me updated on the kids coming through,” he said.
When a history teaching gig opened up at Crest, and with former Lancer coach Brent Smith pulling double duty as football and basketball coach, the chance to come back home proved too enticing to resist.
Hermreck came to Crest and found success almost immediately.
In 2008, the Lancer squad, with the Johnston and Newton brothers, Travis Buck and Clinton Weldin, roared their way to state.
Their bid for a state title was upended in the state semifinals. “We were jobbed by a no-call at the buzzer,” Hermreck said, but it nevertheless offered him some obviously special memories.
Much of that centered on the frequent misperceptions that the Lancers were too small to compete with larger schools.
“That was one of the funnest seasons for me,” he said. “At every step, we were overlooked. When you walk into a gym, and people would think, ‘this is a 1A school, and they’d overlook you. I sat there the whole time, knowing my team had more talent, and we were gonna get them. And we did.”
There were other standouts, like Kyle Hammond, who carried the Lancers to a pair of state tournament bids, and more recently, sons Hayden and Tyson leading the way.
Sure, there were disappointments. The losses at the state tournament are particularly painful.
Heck, Crest was unbeaten through the regular season one year after taking third in Kansas, only to be upset in the first round at the state tournament.
But the heartache is part of the journey.
“They hurt,” he admits. “It’s like with anything. When you invest a lot, the payoff is greater. But so is the heartbreak.”
Therein lies one of the lessons in high school athletics, particularly in small schools like Crest, where wins and losses are only part of the story.
“If I could give a young coach advice, it would be don’t worry about wins and losses as much. Focus on little things. Focus on getting your kids to be over-achievers. There are years you’re going to be limited on what you might be able to accomplish at the end of the season.”
A coach focused on nothing more than where his team finishes in the final standings “is gonna be unhappy,” Hermreck concluded.
But that’s part of what made coaching at Crest so special, he continued.
“As a coach, I think about even the kids who weren’t as talented,” Hermreck said. “I think about all they sacrificed and gave for me and for the team. It’s a pretty special feeling.”
Roaming the sidelines offers other friendships through the coaching fraternities.
“Coaching has been such a blessing in a lot of ways, aside from the relationships with kids,” he noted. “I’ve also been able to make a lot of long-standing friendships with a lot of coaches, guys I probably wouldn’t have been able to get to know otherwise.
“I think the world of guys like David Taylor (who coaches at Humboldt) and Coach (Dan) Wall at Southeast. Not too many people know what it’s like to be a coach and what a coach goes through. And I’ve had some of the greatest assistant coaches you could possibly have.”
THERE are some talented building blocks on the Crest roster for whoever replaces Herrmreck on the sidelines next season. Despite losing four talented seniors, Stratton McGhee, Jacquez Coleman, Kobe Miller and of course Tyson Hermreck, Crest has a number of underclassmen ready to step up.
“I expect to see a resurgence in the win column over the next few years,” Hermreck said.
He also expects to feel pangs of regret once basketball season rolls around next fall.
“It’ll probably eat me alive,” he admitted. “I’m sure there will be times it’ll be pretty hard just to sit and watch. But it’s fun being a spectator, seeing the game from a different perspective. If that’s a neutral perspective in the crowd, that’s OK.”