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Tradition doesn’t graduate: Seniors leave successful track & field team

    Tradition doesn’t graduate.

    That’s the new motto for Dale Henrich, head coach of the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta boys’ track and field team.

    Despite losing 10 seniors to graduation this spring, Henrich is confident that the Tigers will still be strong next season.

    There’s no reason to doubt that theory, because it’s been the norm for the past six seasons.

    The recently graduated seniors had a long tradition of success. They all belonged to the sub-section championship team throughout their careers in track and field. And for those who participated since seventh grade, they can boast six straight sub-section titles.

    This season the Tigers also took first place at their own invitational and at the Little Crow Invite. They finished second at the West Central Conference meet.

    Marcus Cannon, Joel Harrison, Roy Reese, Connor Metzger, and Michael Michaelson were the seniors that were part of the sub-section championship dynasty for six straight seasons.

    Cannon finished his career with two medals at the state meet. He placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdles and eighth in the 300s.

    Henrich called Cannon’s trip to state a “fairytale ending.”

    He knew the hurdler had potential from the start.

    “I’ve been watching him for a long time,” said Henrich. “He didn’t say much, but really performed well.”

    Joel Harrison has been a thrower for the Tigers.

    “He got better every year,” said Henrich. “He did an excellent job.”

    Reese was a distance runner.

    “Roy had a nice string of years as a distance runner,” said Henrich.

    Reese recorded his best 800 time on the same day he suffered a season-ending injury.

    Michaelson competed in the high jump and participated in relays.

    This season, Michaelson was coming off a football injury last fall.

    “He worked himself back,” explained Henrich. “How hard he worked just to be in track, I give him a lot of credit.”

    Metzger’s main event was the pole vault.

    “He did a lot of things to help out where the team needed him,” said Henrich. “He was willing to take that spot (that needed filling) and go run.”    

    The other five seniors on the team include Nic Vipond, Beau Keimig, Darion Helberg, Austin Dierks, and Dillon McNally.

    Vipond has been on the team for a few seasons. His main event was the triple jump.

    On days he ran for the team, he didn’t jump as well, so Henrich let him concentrate on jumping.

    “If that’s what he’s interested in, I was good with that.”

    When Keimig moved into the district, he started out as a distance runner, but made the switch to being a sprinter this season.

    “He turned into a relay guy and got to sections in two relays.”

      Helberg started throwing and running a couple years ago.

    “He’s been a really good sprinter for us,” said Henrich. “He made a big impact in a short period of time.”

    Dierks was a good high jumper for the Tigers for the past couple seasons.

    “I asked if he’d be interested in running the 200 for us,” said Henrich. “He did well.

    “It’s nice to ask somebody to do something and they just try it.”

    McNally has been a distance runner for the Tigers for a couple years.

    “He kept getting better as the season went on,” said Henrich.

    Unfortunately for the seniors, their last season was a short one because of the weather this spring.

    Even though the team missed several meets this season, Henrich is able to look at the bright side.

    “As much as we complained, if you look hard enough you can find something positive,” he explained.

    Possibly due to less competition, the team didn’t get too banged up or injured this season. That was probably the case for many teams in the state.

    “As crummy as the season was, times at the state meet were extremely fast,” said Henrich.    

    That could be due to the favorable weather conditions during the meet, but Henrich believes the less strenuous season also played a part.

    Although the season was shortened, this year’s underclassmen still got in valuable experience for next season.

    As these 10 seniors finished their high school careers, they leave behind five juniors and 10 sophomores to fill their roles.

    “We’re still going to have a really solid team,” said Henrich. “They’re going to have their own spot to step into and continue the tradition.”