The 2009 track and field season was filled with accomplishments for the Morris Area Tiger boys and girls.
The highlight at the end of the season was eight Tigers returning from the state meet with medals.
The boys set the tone for 2009, starting the season by winning five straight meets. The boys won all but one regular-season meet, when they took second place.
At the end of the season, the boys tied for first place in the West Central Conference South, and took first place at both the sub-section and section meets.
Winning all three meets has not happened since coach Dale Henrich has been in Morris, which is going on 25 years.
The girls placed eighth in the confernce, sixth at sub-sections, and ninth at sections.
Henrich realized a long-time goal this year when the boys traveled to the State True Team meet as the wild card entry.
"One thing I wanted to do was take a bus to a state meet," he said. "We got to do that at true team."
While the boys placed fifth at the state track and field championships, Henrich knows that the team was capable of winning that meet, as well. The combination of injuries and foul weather prevented a Tiger state title, but the team did finish in fifth place.
"In a perfect scenario, we would have ended up with a trophy," Henrich said.
He's still extremely pleased with how well the Tiger participants performed at the state meet. Each athlete that competed brought home a medal. That's something else he's never seen in his career at Morris.
"You don't walk into a state meet with that many kids and see everyone get a medal," he said. "It hasn't happened since I've been here."
For the boys, three senior captains led the charge. Henrich remembers feeling very fortunate when Taylor Nohl and Matt Wulf joined the team as freshmen.
"They added a lot of speed as mid- and short-distance sprinters," said Henrich. "They gave us four very good years of running."
Josh Love joined the team as a sophomore throwing discus and shot put.
"It took him a year to get acclimated," Henrich said. "As a junior and senior, he had two excellent years of throwing."
Henrich explained that all three were hard workers who were role models for the younger athletes.
"They did a lot of good things with the younger kids."
The girls' coach, Mark Ekren, had four seniors on his roster this season.
Discus and shot put thrower Katia Vantries, long-distance runner Christine Schneider, and relay runners Katie Huot and Tina Larson, provided experience for the girls' team.
The seniors will be sorely missed, but Henrich and Ekren are looking for good things next year.
"We've got a lot of young kids ready to fill those spots."
Along with the trophies won by the team and the medals earned by individuals, coach Henrich also picked up some hardware this season. He was named the Section 6A Coach of the Year.
"It says a lot about the team," Henrich said of the honor. "All four coaches should get the award."
The team's success is what got Henrich noticed, but the other three coaches are also responsible for the team's progress. Ekren, along with assistants Matt Balken and Vicki Cannon, helped the Tigers throughout the season.
"Balken did a nice job with the distance people and Vicki did a great job with the hurdlers," said Henrich.
"You can't replace Ekren and the stuff he does for the team," added Henrich. "We wouldn't have as good of a team without him."
He appreciates their help and feels that the Coach of the Year Award needs to be shared among the four of them.