One of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country will receive one of Madison’s schools next year.
Madison High School senior Casey Helm made a verbal commitment to Princeton University as a track athlete. If you see him around you might want to give him a pinch just to remind him that everything is really going on.
“Growing up I knew the Ivy Leagues were so prestigious and it’s just something that I never really thought would be my future,” said Helm. “It’s always crazy to me.”
His disbelief can be forgiven if you consider that he will be part of something so historic. Not only will he attend a university older than the United States itself and which in 2021 was ranked No. 1 by US News for the 10th consecutive year, but he will also be coached by Fred Samara, who, among others, has competed in the decathlon at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
“Coach Samara is just a legendary track and field coach,” said Helm. “He’s been in the Olympics and he’s been a really amazing coach and his resume is just amazing.”
But as honored as Helm may feel to join the Princeton track team, it appears the arrangement is mutually beneficial.
Helm is a 4.0 student, one of Kansas’ best quarterbacks this year, and a state champion in discus and shot put. He was drafted for track and field by Kansas State, Texas Tech and Iowa and for football and track and field by several Division II schools, including Emporia State.
He was tempted to try his hand at college football and track and field, but in the end he said he didn’t want to pursue as much as he was unable to reach his personal level.
“When I do something, athletically or academically, I try to be the best I can be,” Helm said. “I didn’t want to spread myself too thin. With football, athletics and schooling, I didn’t want to have so much that I couldn’t compete at my best.
He settled into track and field and said the goad of not pursuing football next year was not quite fully depressed, possibly because the Bulldogs moved up to 9-0 on the grill Thursday night with a 62-0 win over Marmaton Valley in the first round of the state playoffs.
“We’re trying to make the most of this year because it’s something that I’m really going to miss for the rest of my life,” Helm said.
When the time came to decide where he would pursue his academic and athletic careers next year, it was leaving school in New Jersey – not any of the Midwestern trio – that caught his eye and , finally, his commitment.
“The Princeton campus is amazing. It’s a really nice campus, but really, at the end of the day, it was the people, ”Helm said.
Still, Helm – who plans to major in environmental studies – knows what awaits him at Princeton won’t be easy. After all, the school is well known for its rigorous classes, and few people can sleepwalk during the time and effort it takes to compete at the Division I level.
“It’s a little scary because it’s going to be a step forward,” he said. “It will certainly be difficult there, but it’s part of the fun, the challenge. I am really excited about this.
And luckily, as a multisport athlete who also happens to be a bit of a scholar, Helm is well versed in hard work and balance.
“You just have to make up your own mind, hey, I want to do it because I want to be the best I can be,” he said. “So when you come home from training and after having dinner you say to yourself, ‘okay, I’m going to sit down and work on the math for 30 minutes’, then you can relax for 45 minutes and then you go to bed. It takes a bit of effort to do, but it’s not that hard.
Helm also understands that while he had to flex a lot of muscles to get to this point in his life, he didn’t accomplish everything on his own. He thanked his family, coaches, friends and the city of Madison for all they have done for him.
“Everyone has been a great support and it’s really great to have the support of the school and the whole community,” he said. “Everyone has been super helpful and super encouraging so I just really want to say thank you to these people.”
Although there are still several months before Helm moves to the East Coast, anticipation is mounting. Born in Olathe before moving to Madison as a child, Helm is eager to step into a bigger world.
“It’s a new place for me so it’s going to be a new experience,” he said. “It’s a different part of the country and it’s something that’s really exciting for me.”
And while you can get the boy out of Madison, it looks like you won’t be able to get Madison out of the boy.
“Madison is a very, very close-knit community and everyone is there for each other,” Helm said. “It’s something that is certainly not everywhere there. This is probably what I will miss the most is how close everyone is and how kind and supportive they are. It’s amazing the amount of support that is in this community.