Dunbar valedictorian celebrates with coach/teacher/dad

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Myles Lacking, who has nearly completed his associate degree at Sinclair, qualified for the state track meet for Dunbar in three events.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

If you said Myles Lacking has made a name for himself, you’d be right in more ways than one.

Academically, he was named Dunbar High School’s valedictorian, and he’s already closing in on an Associate’s degree from Sinclair. He also captained two Dunbar sports teams — football in the fall, plus track and field this spring, where he qualified for this weekend’s state championships in three events.

ExploreSee photos and bios of the region's top high school grads

He’s also “made a name” by choosing to go by his middle name, Myles. Technically he’s the latest in his family’s long run of men named James Lacking. That includes his dad, Dunbar’s longtime freshman English teacher and football coach.

Asked if they are much alike, father and son both quickly said no. But their mannerisms, success and quick wit (sometimes at each other’s expense) might suggest otherwise.

“I want to make sure he’s his own man because I don’t want him to be in my shadow — same name, same school, coach’s son, teacher’s son,” James Lacking said. “I want him to make his own decisions and be able to live with his own decisions.”

Dunbar High School valedictorian and athlete Myles Lacking poses with his father, James, who is an English teacher and football coach at the school. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Dunbar High School valedictorian and athlete Myles Lacking poses with his father, James, who is an English teacher and football coach at the school. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Myles is certainly on that independent path. When his dad suggested he should tone down his hyper-competitive nature — that you can’t win them all, that you can learn from your mistakes — Myles had his favorite quote ready immediately.

In the words of fictional race-car driver Ricky Bobby from the movie “Talladega Nights” — “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Myles won Dunbar’s valedictorian honor as the school’s top student, but he said to be honest, he doesn’t love school.

“But when I found out I was up close to the top (sophomore year), I made it a goal that I wanted to be valedictorian,” he said.

He spent his entire senior year taking online classes from Sinclair Community College and said he has three courses left to finish that degree.

“I might finish out my Associate’s this summer,” Myles said, adding that he delayed his decision on his next college. “I’ve found the business classes very interesting, and the business aspect has pushed me toward marketing as a major.”

ExploreAfter COVID year off, Dunbar chases more track titles

Despite the academic success, Myles said his time in sports “really made my high school years” — both the great times shared with his teammates as well as the competition itself.

Talking football brought out a little family competition between Myles, a cornerback on defense, and his dad James Lacking, a head coach who worked with the offense. James Lacking said his offense “ran the ball down their throat every day in practice,” while Myles said Dad must have forgotten all the interceptions the defense piled up.

From his dad’s freshman English class, Myles said he mostly remembered reading the autobiography “Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America,” by Nathan McCall.

Myles received no special treatment in English class if he made a grammatical error, or didn’t write a thesis statement properly. James Lacking said it was a bit of a weird situation, and he could tell Myles got irritated sometimes in class.

Dunbar High School valedictorian Myles Lacking talks about the father-son, teacher-student and coach-athlete relationships he has with his dad, English teacher and football coach James Lacking. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF
Dunbar High School valedictorian Myles Lacking talks about the father-son, teacher-student and coach-athlete relationships he has with his dad, English teacher and football coach James Lacking. JEREMY P. KELLEY / STAFF

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

Credit: Jeremy P. Kelley

“Hearing it from your dad is 10 times worse than hearing it from a regular teacher. … But it was all right,” Myles said with a growing grin. “His work was easy. I thought it would be a little more challenging.”

Playful jabs aside, the respect they have for each other is clear. Myles named his father as his “teacher of influence” when he won the Franklin B. Walter scholarship, citing the impact James Lacking has in the classroom, the hallways and the playing fields at Dunbar.

To all Myles’ accomplishments, James Lacking just nodded and said, “That’s my guy,” saying Myles had earned his own success.

Because Myles spent the year taking online classes from Sinclair, he said he’s looking forward to all the events this month where he can see his classmates, including a school dance and graduation.

ExploreSix local students earn military academy appointments

He kicked off the month Friday, as he and fellow Dunbar sprinters Brandon Wright, Shawn Huffman and Jalaquan Lusbrough won their preliminary heats in both the 400-meter and 800-meter relays at the state track meet, setting up Saturday’s finals. Then Saturday, the Dunbar quartet won the state title in both events.

But Myles has goals beyond this month. Asked to picture himself in 10 years, the first thing he said is that he hopes he’s financially stable enough to buy his parents a new car. … James Lacking, of course, suggested he might be able to get a loan today and take care of it now.

Father and son both said their advice to Dayton students just starting high school would be to get involved in activities tied to their schools.

“Stay focused,” Myles said. “Participate in something school-based like sports or clubs to keep you out of the way, because there’s a lot of stuff outside of school that can ruin your life.”

In Other News