Every teenager has their own idea of where they're going once high school is complete.

For some those goals might be lofty while others could have their sight sets on more realistic expectations. However they plan to proceed, the most important thing is how they're going to reach that final destination, something Mexico senior Alex Dukes nailed down last Thursday by signing his national letter of intent to run track and field and cross country for Columbia College.

"I'm very happy to be able to run at the college level and push myself even further and see what my limits are. I'm a little nervous because I'm going from the local and state area to the national and regional levels, but at the same time you get the chance to meet a whole lot more competition," said Dukes. "Academics and athletics are the main things I have going for me. Otherwise I would need to get a student loan to go to college."

Among the other schools Dukes was looking at were Southeast Missouri, Southwest Baptist and UMKC. The reason he chose Columbia is not only the strength of its athtletic program, but it also offered the academic ciriculum, science education, he was looking for without forcing him to navigate an oversized or uneccesarily confusing campus.

"I am very excited to have a student-athlete like Alex Dukes commit to Columbia College," said Cougars Assistant Coach Daniel Radkowiec. "He is an outstanding student academically and with his hard work ethic and dedication to the sport he will have a bright future on and off the track."

Once Dukes has his degree, that will qualify him to become a high school physics or chemistry teacher or possibly a college professor. While the reason he followed that path comes from having a passion for science and figuring out how things work, his originl idea was to try and become a geophysicist, a course he veered from based on the limited educational opportunities available to him.

"Alex is one of if not the hardest working runner I have ever coached. I know in every workout and in every race we are going to get his best effort," said Mexico track coach Lucas Breneman. "Alex is also not afraid to get out there and put in the work that is necessary to compete at the highest level and it shows with all the success he has had in the sport of cross country and track."

Another path Dukes hopes to follow later in life is coaching, which would fit well with the life of a high school teacher. One reason for that is the effect the Mexico coaches have had on him dating back to the very start of his athletic career.

"I've always had a good relationship with my coaches at Mexico. Bucky (Green) started with me at middle school along with coach (John) Wilbers. They both taought me to train hard in the offseason and always push myself," said Dukes. "Once I got to high school (Lucas) Breneman was my coach for track and once I started cross country Wilbers was my coach and they ended up pushing me to my limits and that's why I was able to succed."