BELLINGHAM - After keeping the medals she won as a freshman, sophomore and junior at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships in a box, Blaine's Cherish Morrison said she finally decided to display them after returning home following her senior meet late last month.
Or at least, she tried to, until the hook she used to hang them broke.
"I have them hung up now, but I had to hang them off some beaded string that I have," Morrison said.
Guess that's what happens when you've raked in as much hardware as Morrison has.
In fact, it's safe to say nobody in the state of Washington has had more Washington Interscholastic Activities Association medals hung around his or her neck than Morrison. Track and field rules limit athletes to four events, and Morrison received four each of her four years in high school.
Call it a Sweet 16 for the young woman who is renowned for her love of sweet treats - her favorite being red licorice, though she'll rarely pass up anything with sugar in it.
Add one more title to her impressive list of accomplishments, as Morrison has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Girls' Track and Field Athlete of the Year for the second time in the past three years. Sehome co-coaches Kevin Ryan and Tim Carlson were selected Coaches of the Year.
All but two of Morrison's 16 state medals are of the gold variety.
The only races Morrison entered at a high school state meet and didn't win were the girls' 100 meters and the 4x200 relay during her junior season, when she finished second and sixth, respectively. In fact, all that separated Morrison from 12 individual titles was the two-hundredths of a second she finished behind River Ridge's Necy Wade last spring.
Other than that, she's been the queen of 2A sprints - three 100 titles, four 200 titles, four 400 titles, two 4x200 relay titles and one 4x400 relay title.
"It's unheard of," Blaine track coach Mike Grambo said. "The other thing with Cherish, when you talk about what she has accomplished, is everybody knows who Cherish Morrison is. At state, even officials were coming up and hugging her. It was a neat thing for her. "It was neat for Blaine High School, too, to have someone of that caliber. I've been involved with high school track for a long time, and I've never seen someone have a track career like her - I mean 14 gold medals? It's kind of like Carl Lewis, the way everybody knows his name. When it comes to high school track and field, everybody knows Cherish Morrison's name. It was special to be a part of that."
The WIAA doesn't keep records for most individual titles won, but Sports and Activities Information Director Conor Laffey could only come up with one girls' track and field athlete that was even in the same zip code as Morrison - Cascade Christian distance runner Jane Larson, who won 12 track gold medals in the 800, 1,600, 3,200 and 4x400 during her high school career from 2003-2006. Larson also added a pair of state titles in girls' cross country, so at best, it could be called a push with Morrison.
"Wow," Morrison said. "I've heard people talking about it being the most in track before, but I didn't know for sure until now. That's pretty humbling."
And especially impressive considering all that Morrison has been through during her young life.
About the only thing Morrison owns more of than state championship medals is former addresses.
A product of the foster care system since she was 7, Morrison said she's lived in 27 homes. Though she said she attended 11 schools during that time and has even moved to a number of different foster homes since she arrived in Blaine, Morrison was fortunate enough to stay enrolled at Blaine for all four years of her high school career.
"That was really important to me," Morrison said. "It didn't matter where I was living, I didn't have to change high schools. It didn't matter what the family was like, my real family was at school - at least all my friends were still the same there at school. My family, outside my real family, was the people on the track team."
That sort of stability was exactly what Morrison needed to flourish.
"It was the first time in her life she got to stay in the same place for four years," Grambo said. "To see her have that stability and to graduate from high school, it's really rewarding. To see her get a full-ride scholarship offer and get accepted to college, it just goes to show what sports can do for kids."
That full-ride offer came from New Mexico State in Las Cruces, and is an offer Morrison said she is seriously considering. But she's not ready to sign a National Letter of Intent with the Aggies just yet, as the University of Nevada Las Vegas also has shown recent interest.
With family living in the Las Vegas area, Morrison said she's definitely open to the idea of becoming - quite fittingly - a Runnin' Rebel.
"As long as I can get my master's and bachelor's in Secondary Education and they have a track team, it's a school I'll consider," Morrison said.
Though Morrison says she "hates" the 400 because "it is so long and I get so tired," Grambo believes that is where Morrison will shine in college. She led a 1-2 finish with teammate Kiersten Sigfusson at the state meet this year with a personal-best time of 56.09 seconds, setting a state meet record in the process.
"That was something special," Morrison said with a big smile. "Kiersten is my best friend, and we've been talking for four years about going 1-2. 'When are we going to go 1-2? When are we going to go 1-2?' And then we finally did it. I was so happy she was there to help me off the track, because I was so tired."
The dynamic duo teamed up with Olivia Olason and Kieya Villars on the last event of the meet to win the 4x400, breaking the meet record in the event by more than three seconds, adding to her list of four conference, four district and five school records she leaves behind.
"The coaches have wanted us to run the 4x4 for a long time," Morrison said. "I really wasn't all that fired up to do it. I mean it's the last event of the day, and at that point I'm like, 'I want to go back to the hotel and go swimming.' I don't want to run another 400. It's hard enough running one of them. But to win it and break that record, that's something I'll never forget."
She'll probably never forget her wins in the 100 (12.36 seconds) and 200 (24.92 seconds), either.
"She had another amazing state meet," Grambo said. "She's a serious competitor and a hard worker. She had a minor injury she suffered running the 100 at the conference meet, but she battled back. It's hard to defend those titles. There were some rude comments on Facebook, and there was a lot of pressure on her being the three-time defending champion in the 200 and 400. But I think Cherish ran great. It was neat to see her not lose confidence in herself or her coaches. She is a special athlete, and she just showed it once again."
Now all she needs is a hook strong enough to show just how special.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2271.
ALL-WHATCOM COUNTY TEAM
GIRLS' TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
2012: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2011: Zoe Moeller, Sehome
2010: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
2009: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2008: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2007: Becca Friday, Bellingham
2006: Meghan Dahl, Ferndale
This is the seventh in a series of packages honoring the standout student-athletes of the 2012 high school spring sports season. The All-Whatcom County teams and Athletes of the Year are selected by the Sports staff of The Bellingham Herald. Here is a look at the dates this season's teams will run:
Girls' tennis: Bella Hoyos, Bellingham
Boys' soccer: Heath Sowers, Ferndale
Softball: Brooke Bonsen, Lynden
Baseball: Jordan Kreider, Lynden
Girls' golf: Brooke Branigan, Bellingham
Boys' golf: Ryan Wallen, Blaine
Girls' track and field: Cherish Morrison, Blaine
Boys' track and field: Coming June 17
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.