June 05, 2000 12:00 PM

If, as Woody Allen once said, 80 percent of success is merely showing up, count on Travis Schmidt to achieve great things. “I may not be the smartest or the coolest,” he says. “But I’m always there.”

No idle boaster, Schmidt, 18, has walked the talk since the day he began kindergarten in Mandan, N.Dak., in 1986. On May 21 he graduated from Mandan Senior High School with a perfect attendance record—2,340 days—for his entire academic career.

Schmidt was only in third grade when he first dreamed up his plan to become the Cal Ripken of academia. “I thought it’d be cool,” he says. Parents Mark, now 45, a technician at the BP Amoco refinery, and Charlotte, also 45, a clerk at the state motor vehicle department, knew it was a long shot. “My biggest fear was that he’d get chicken pox,” says Charlotte. To avert a crisis, the family sent Travis and brother Preston, now 14, to visit a pox-infected friend during the summer of 1992. The boys caught and recovered from the disease before school began.

Schmidt suffered his share of colds, but nothing that kept him from rising for his 5 a.m. paper route or sticking around for basketball, track or swim practice. “Travis can pull out what he needs,” says swim coach Ralph Manley. “That’s what I love about the guy.”

Now celebrated for his constancy, Schmidt will attend North Dakota State University, where he plans to stay calm if he misses a class every now and then. “They don’t keep attendance in college,” he says.

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