Cherish Morrison poses at the start line during a recent photoshoot. Photo by Janell Kortlever.
Set on the blocks, fighting a deep end-of-meet fatigue, Cherish Morrison, 18, looked down the track and only focused on the next 10 meters. The 400m was her final race at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma late last month.
“You’ve got to win the first 10 meters,” Morrison said. “If you win, that nobody’s going to beat you.” After winning the first 10 meters and her last race and setting a state record by three seconds, Morrison is now a 16-time winner at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships.
She made the win just ahead of best friend Kiersten Sigfusson who took second place for the 400m. It was an aspiration for the “dynamic duo” for four years, she said.
Morrison said Sigfusson motivated her through grueling workouts, which got harder and harder as the years progressed. Quitting was never an option.
Morrison said she was usually the one complaining, while Sigfusson would push through practices with a straight face. Opposites in personality, Morrison is loud and boisterous, while Sigfusson is quiet and reserved. The two brought out the best in each other, including their ability to compete.
The pair will separate this fall as Morrison continues her running career at New Mexico State University in La Cruces, with plans to try out for the 2016 Olympics. She finished her high school track career with a state record of 16 medals, 14 of those gold. She was named Athlete of the Year two times in Whatcom County, and MVP twice at Blaine High School.
As a high school freshman in 2008, Morrison knew she would try out for sprinting since she’d been running and jumping in track and field since seventh grade. Morrison said the first day was awkward. She had recently moved to Blaine, was at a new school and surrounded by a group of upper-classmen she’d just beaten her first time out.
Her competitive fierceness may have something to do with being raised by a series of foster parents and fighting for attention in new families, she said. While she lost count the last four years, Morrison had been in 27 different homes throughout her life.
Mike Grambo, Blaine High School’s recently retired head track coach for the past 23 years, knew Morrison was special from the beginning.
In state track and field athletics, you can only enter four events a season, which means she placed in every state event she entered, he said, speaking to her 16 state medals.
“You just won’t see that again,” Grambo said. “At least not in my lifetime, I don’t think.” Morrison is finishing her career with two more state records, four district records, four league records and five school records.
Jim Rasar, head sprinting coach until his retirement this spring, remembers seeing Morrison run her first 300m. The 300m is considered a good gauge for coaches as it shows whether an athlete has natural speed for sprinting or stamina for long distance.Rasar said the fiery freshman completed the distance in 42 seconds.
“That was phenomenal,” said Rasar, who worked closely with her for the next four years.
Her routine was a balancing act to build up stamina and speed, and her workouts varied depending on what the coaches and Morrison thought she needed to work on.
The one thing Rasar didn’t have to teach Morrison was her competitive attitude – Morrison did not like to lose. In his 23 years he’s never encountered anyone with Morrison’s fire.
“An athlete has to want to win no matter what the cost,” Rasar said. “She’d give it all she had. She didn’t need help mentally preparing herself.”
Off the field Rasar described Morrison as charismatic. She had a very influential personality – if she was joyful and happy she made everyone around her joyful and happy.
“Whether you like it or not you are an example,” Rasar recalls telling her once, who feels he developed a connection with her. He said he talked her through some tough times, but also knew how to push her buttons.
“I don’t think people who aren’t involved or don’t take an interest in the world of track and field can grasp the significance of what that girl did,” Rasar said.
While her talent will be missed, it’s down in the record books, and Morrison will be sharing her abilities with New Mexico next year.