Ka’Deem Wynn lay on the grass at First Academy in Orlando, struggling to catch his breath. He had just run his last race at the 38th Annual Golden South Classic, posting a personal record time of 1:57.44 in the 800 meters. But he wasn’t done.
“Just give me a few minutes, and I’ll be ready for my interview,” Wynn told distancepreps.com editor Bob Cooke. Wynn, a rising junior at Flagler Palm Coast, took a quick swig of Powerade, pulled on a grey T-shirt and tidied himself up for the camera.
“How are you feeling right now?” The first question comes out organically, and Wynn — the interviewer — clasps the slender black microphone with an air of confidence. His subject, a standout runner from Georgia, probably has no clue he’s talking to a fellow high schooler.
Since March, Wynn has juggled duties as one of the Bulldogs’ top distance runners with a burgeoning career in sports journalism.
Take that step
There are certain days, mostly in the winter, and overwhelmingly during long-distance runs, when Wynn’s lungs seize up. He brings his inhaler with him everywhere and takes a puff or two while warming up so the medication can circulate through his system.
“Most people don’t know I have asthma,” he says. "They’ll look and say, it’s one of the toughest sports to do with a condition like that. ‘How do you run?’ But it’s all because of God. Just through him giving me the strength and ability to do what I do.”
As a freshman in 2013, he was a member of the Bulldogs 4x800 relay squad that placed fourth in states. This season, his 4x400 meter crew won a district title.
“When he first came out, we didn’t think he’d be of much use to the team,” said senior Markell Peck, who runs the 4x800 alongside Wynn. “But as he came on, he became a huge part of the team. Even though he wasn’t a captain, we treated him like he was one.”
Wynn first developed an interest in the sport as a 7th-grader at Deland Middle School and hoped to join the school’s extracurricular running club the following year.
“Me and my friends would always mess around and chase each other around the school, so we figured we might as well put it to good use,” he said.
That plan was put on hold when his family moved to Palm Coast in 2011, but the urge to run lingered. Wynn spent the final two months of his eighth-grade year at Buddy Taylor and the ensuing summer training with Bulldogs coach Dave Halliday and a contingent of FPC runners.
Despite tasting some success as a freshman, it wasn’t all smooth striding for Wynn. At the UNF meet during spring break this season, he hit a wall with his performance in the 800. Halliday knew the problem didn’t stem from a lack of preparation or natural ability — just execution.
“I just felt like he was holding himself back a little bit, afraid to take that step,” he said.
The hall-of-fame coach gave it to him straight.
“He said, ‘you can get out and run under two minutes, or you can run two-flat, 2:01 for your whole life,’” Wynn recalled of the brief pep talk. “And then he just shrugged his shoulders and walked away.”
Wynn responded with a then-personal record. Now, as a rising junior with experience at two state meets, he’ll shoulder an increased leadership role, while still vying to shave seconds off his PRs.
“Since I have that experience and you guys don’t, I can help you, and we’ll go it together,” he plans to tell incoming freshmen and new runners.
Wynn’s ability to adjust and flourish with minimal coaching or coaxing extends into the classroom.
Going the extra mile
In Missy Bossardet’s 10th-grade English class at FPC, “elaboration” was the watchword. And that fit Wynn’s writing style perfectly.
“He was really good at providing fact after fact after fact,” Bossardet said of Wynn. “He was just a really hard worker in general.”
When the class dissected Elie Wiesel’s Holocaust memoir, “Night,” Wynn reinforced his essays by incorporating historical tidbits about World War II.
“Grammatically speaking, I think he’s far beyond a regular 10th-grade student,” Bossardet said. “He’s unique in that he’s always willing to go that extra mile, whether it be in writing, his academics or his athletic endeavors.”
Sometimes for Wynn, the “extra mile” entailed taking a thought or question about running and posting it to social media. And that’s what caught Bob Cooke’s attention.
Upon seeing one of Wynn’s well-written tweets, “I thought, man, he’s a young kid who maybe wants to get into the business, and we could be the perfect outlet for him,” Cooke recalled.
He reached out through email and asked Wynn if he’d like to contribute to distancepreps.com, a cross country and track site that focuses primarily on Florida athletes. Wynn’s first assignment for Distance Preps was an early-season profile on his own team, making for an interesting exercise in point-of view and journalistic bias.
“The first article that I wrote, I was one of the key members of the team, so it was kind of weird talking about myself,” he joked.
His next project was an athlete profile on an up-and-coming runner from California, Austin Tamagno. By providing insight from his own athletic expertise and supplementing his quotes with commentary, Wynn unwittingly established himself as a sports columnist. That article went semi-viral, Cooke said. From there, he’s continued to churn out and publish articles at a breakneck pace.
“One of the great things about him is he doesn’t need a whole lot of direction from me,” Cooke said. “I might give him a quick lead or something, but the next thing I know, the article is posted online.”
‘More than just running’
Before Cooke agreed to let Wynn contribute to his site, he made two things clear.
“When I first started talking to him, the most important thing was doing stories for us had to be secondary to schoolwork,” he said. “Without getting the grades at school, there is no track and field. There is no outlet at distance preps. The focus has to be on the schoolwork.”
With that stipulation met, he wanted Wynn to develop a journalistic “toolcase.” He encouraged him to read the work of sports writers at Sports Illustrated and to adhere to AP Style in his own articles.
“I’ve learned different ways to start an article and draw the readers in,” said Wynn. “If I’m interviewing somebody, depending on what exactly I want the article to be about, I know what questions to ask. Just also to be friendly.”
Wynn’s actively working on his speaking skills and wants more of his future articles to be grounded in face-to-face interviews. Halliday pointed out the benefits of having an in-house journo on the team.
Wynn’s sports writing is “kind of dorky, but it’s also really cool, because it’s more publicity for us, and one hell of an experience for him,” he said. “Taking two-plus years of that into college? If he wants to go into journalism, talk about a pretty decent resume.”
Wynn has enrolled in a journalism/yearbook class for the fall semester. He’s excited about the opportunity to learn photojournalism and video production alongside copywriting. He’s starting to think about college, and about pursuing journalism when he gets there. For now, he’s content honing his journalism writing about his passion for track and cross country.
“With writing, even when I tried it the first time, I loved it,” he said. “I’m writing about something I love and that I’m passionate about. To me, running is more than just running.”