* Shawnee Mission North's Micah Blomker runs to his box on Saturday
Photo Credit: Raymond Tran/MileSplit
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by Cory Mull - MileSplit
Shortly before the final cross country race of his high school career, Micah Blomker found a bluish-black marker. He picked up the pen and began to outline the number "10" on his right arm. He was careful to get it right, the number outlining much of his limb above the elbow.
Next was his left. Here, he began to write "N-O-L-A-N." Each character accounted equally for the other, size and width and shape, as if every single letter represented a specific memory.
Micah knew these messages on his body were powerful statements and a reminder of why he was running.
But anyone in his position would have been forgiven for anything less.
It was only the previous week that he had learned of the devastating news, that his former coach Aaron Davidson and his son Nolan were hit by a car driven by a drunk driver. The wreck forced the young boy into a coma, while the father was injured.
Six days later, the son died. Nolan was just 9 years old.
As Micah was traveling to San Diego for Foot Locker Nationals, his parents informed him, a season full of joys now taken over by grief.
"Running, from what I've learned, it's not the most important thing," Blomker said Saturday. "It's letting go of that. People are the most important thing. The more and more I've learned that, the better things have gotten over these last two years. But it's been a long journey."
Two days later, Micah had to step to the line at Balboa Park on a bright and sunny day. He wrote the number "10" on his arm; it was Nolan's soccer number.
Just two weeks earlier, Micah had qualified for Foot Locker Nationals out of the Midwest Region, where he had finished in ninth-place -- and only the top 10 in that race were handed tickets to nationals.
But what really was racing at this point? Life didn't just start and stop.
Micah believed this was his chance to dedicate his last race to Nolan, to a life not yet fully lived, to the young boy who he had played bean bags with, to the 9-year-old who had tagged along while his father coached Micah on the track.
"I was running for something bigger today," he said.
Maybe the race was all a blur, anyway, the gun, the start, the wave, and then a rush of moving bodies into the mile.
Micah was in 24th-place to start, only middle-of-the-pack.
But then into the second mile, he began to find his rhythm, moving up five spots. Then came another five at the two-mile marker. He stayed there past the giant hill and then down the preceding downhill.
He made one last-gasp kick at the end, passing a runner on his way to 13th-place.
"I was really happy with how I fought," he said, before adding later, "pushing through it, that was the biggest thing for me."
Micah's season had been successful on its own, six wins and his first Class 6A state championship in Kansas.
But it had also been hard. He sat down one long night in October and wrote all of his thoughts down, replaying the many struggles he endured well beyond his years. He shared his message over four pictures on Instagram.
"I don't remember much about the spring of my eighth-grade year, but I remember the darkness that crept over me throughout that time," he wrote.
No young teenager wants an eating disorder, he wrote, but when the lightbulb finally was cast upon him, when hospitalization was needed and recovery was a winding process, he only began to realize where his life was heading before it.
"I'm sharing my story of recovery and redemption to show that it's OK to be human," he wrote.
Four years to that traumatic moment, Micah was in a much better place. He had seized control of his life, his sport, his future, grief aside.
"I'm not focused on the outcome right now," he said on Saturday. "I'm focused on the moment. Looking to that outcome has gotten me to a bad place (before), but I was so blesed to be out here (today). It was a dream come true."
He finished the final race of his cross country career as an All-American, as one of the top 14 runners in the nation.
One finger up to the sky, to Nolan.
"I've definitely grown as a person and just developed a lot of resilience," he said. "I've always been a super disciplined person, but to develop the resilience has been huge. Keep coming back and never giving up, no matter how frustrating it is, has helped me through this season."