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Rochester Century track leaving legacy by how it handled unprecedented adversity

Rochester Century track leaving legacy by how it handled unprecedented adversity
Both the Rochester Century boys and girls track and field teams were crowned Big 9 conference champions in 2019. (Courtesy: Kyle Riggott)

ROCHESTER, Minn. (BVM) — It started with a tweet that first-year head coach KylenRiggott posted after the MSHSL announced it would be canceling its spring season.

This was a Rochester Century boys track team that was looking to win the Big 9 conference for the fourth time in a row. The Panthers also went to the MSHSL Class AA State tournament where they had the best finish in school history, finishing ninth.

“The expectation was to be a serious title contender for the first-time ever,” Riggott said.

A big reason for the title expectation was they were returning most of the talent that had led them to a state appearance last year. In particular, Sam Amusan, a sprinter who will be running at the University of Wisconsin next year, and Jack Fischer, a long jumper who will be playing football at Augustana University. Both seniors were looking to break school records and even state records in their respective events.

The Panthers were also going to feature a strong long distance group, shot put throwers and a discuss tosser. All of this combined with strong senior leadership made Riggott very confident in his team’s ability.

“This class is unbelievable,” Riggott said of his seniors. “This was the pinnacle of their opportunity to finish what they started.”

However, this wasn’t just about competing for state or winning another conference title. It was also about seeing off a group of athletes that had risen through the ranks with Riggott.

A Panther alum himself, he came back to Century in 2015 after college as an assistant track coach with aspirations to one day be a head coach. This senior class has basically been with him from the very beginning. As he watched them grow, they too got to see him work his way to the top — all leading up to this year when Riggott would be able to send off his seniors as their head coach.

“About two years ago we saw the writing on the wall that there might be an opportunity to become the head coach,” Riggott said. “This group was really excited for that and when we got it in February and the news broke that I landed the job, I had so many of them reaching out and I walked into the weight room after school and they just went crazy. It’s just been fun to get to see them grow and our relationship grow.”

Even though it is not the way they wanted to end their time together it is fitting that they can still do it together. It is also fitting that Riggott brought to the team a life philosophy that would help guide his team through this turmoil.

“As an athlete and a young coach I established four pillars in my life that I told myself I would always hold to a high standard,” Riggott said. “That’s what I would live my life off of and when I got the job as the head track coach I shared that philosophy with the kids and there was some instant buy in. They took ownership of it, they related to it well and so we went into the season with this mantra of four pillars; we were going to control what we could control, we were going to understand that positivity is contagious, we were going to see that failing is only growing and that love equals sacrifice.”

Riggott has continued to preach these four pillars during the pandemic. In turn, the leaders on the team have echoed their coach’s words and have worked together to make sure the team helps one another get through this.

“If we grow from it, we gain something,” Riggott said.

The team is still in contact and helped each other get through a season that never happened. However, no matter what the Panther seniors have left a legacy that their coach and teammates won’t soon forget.

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