To see a high school season taken away from all athletes in Washington was one of the saddest things to have ever happen.
And for athletes like Matthew Henson, a senior at Stadium High School in Tacoma, we won't get to see them run one last time at the high school level.
Even though we don't get to see these athletes compete one last time, we won't ever forget their accomplishments from the last four years.
In the first submission of the "My legacy" story, Henson looks back on his high school career, not from an individual standpoint, but how he helped change the culture of running at Stadium.
By Matthew Henson
My “legacy” is more about the development of my school’s cross-country program than it is about my personal success.
I had some good success of my own that I am proud of: qualifying for state xc three times, running at our 2018 district track meet in the 1600, and taking the W in the 4x400 at the Kent-Meridian track invitational in 2018. But none of those compare to the growth of the cross-country program that I am leaving behind.
When I first joined cross country in 2016, we had a total of 12 runners, and half were freshmen like I was. We had two sophomores who were the only real leadership on the team, and they proved to be a sturdy backbone for our program over the next 3 years. We almost didn’t qualify for our district meet that season, and our league was very weak.
But we were motivated. Our whole varsity team was returning for the next season, and we had the goal of qualifying for the state meet. We worked hard all season and we managed to take the last state qualifying spot in our district by the narrow margin of 13 points. This was the first time our team had qualified for state in twenty years.
Looking back, I now realize how important this season was, because it set us up for an unimaginable next two years.
With the addition of two standout middle school runners, and coordinated summer workouts, we managed to go undefeated in all of our regular season meets, and win our league championship. Unfortunately, myself and another of our varsity runners became injured, and could not compete at our district meet, but our able runners were so committed to the team, they managed to pull of the first district championship win in our schools history, and later went on to place 9th at the 3A State Cross Country Championships.
This was something that not one person on our team could have imagined. In 2019, we went on to repeat as league and district champs, and place 6th overall at the 3A State Cross Country Championships. We were the best team that our school ever had.
I had the privilege of joining a scrappy team with no real commitment, where summer training was something to laugh at, and watch it grow and develop into a team that had a mindset focused on success and accountability. Instead of teammates becoming friends, we became brothers.
It was always sad to see the upperclassmen graduate and move on after each year, because the spirit of the team would never be the same again. But now that I am moving on myself, I realize that there is more to it than that.
Every senior that graduates has had an impact on their team, for better or worse, and I realize now that my impact: my legacy, was that I helped build my team into the District powerhouse it is today. And I couldn’t be prouder of the team I am leaving behind.
If you are a senior, and would like to submit a "My Legacy" story to The Runner WA, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.