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A Decade Later: My Favorite Athlete From 2010

Posted: Monday, June 15, 2020 - 8:54 AM

I met Trisha Kienitz for the first time in May 2010, more than 10 years ago. I was two months into this job with the MSHSL and Trisha was a senior golfer at MACCRAY High School in Clara City. If you know Minnesota geography, then you know that Clara City is between Willmar and Granite Falls.

I have learned an awful lot about Minnesota geography in traveling all over our great state for more than a decade now. But even as the years pass by, some stories hold long-lasting, special significance. Trisha is one of those stories.

She was born with one leg. Her right leg is a prosthetic, from the hip down. When I first wrote about Trisha in 2010, the story included this passage…

John standing with Trisha Kienitz

Trisha, 18, tells the story – as she does just about everything else -- with a smile. She walks the school hallways in Clara City with a smile. She smiles as she pulls up the fabric of her jeans to reveal the flesh-toned prosthetic right leg that begins at her hip and is strapped around her waist.

She smiles as she recounts qualifying for the Class A state tournament the past two years, and continues to smile as she talks about her goal of returning this year.

Artificial leg? No big deal.

Her goal in that senior season 10 years ago was to win a medal for the first time at the state tournament. And she did just that, placing eighth. Her mom, Kelli, took a photo of Trisha and I after the awards ceremony; a copy of that photo (seen here) is framed and sitting in my office.

Trisha went on to play golf at Southwest Minnesota State in Marshall, where the farm girl studied Ag Finance, Farm Management and Ag Marketing. Her name now is Trisha Demaris; she and her husband Jake live in Detroit Lakes and Trisha works as a district technician for the East Otter Tail Soil & Water Conservation District. She was all set to help coach girls golf in Detroit Lakes this spring and is as disappointed as anyone that the spring seasons were canceled due to Covid-19.

When we chatted on the phone recently -- 10 years after our first meeting – I asked Trisha about her memories of winning that precious medal as a senior.

"I shot a 39 on the front nine on the first day (breaking 40 for the first time anywhere outside her home course in Raymond)," she said. "I was just playing golf, I was so excited to be there in my senior year. I shot 39 and it was fantastic."

After the two-day tournament ended, she remembers looking at the results almost in disbelief: "Is that really my name there?” (Here's a current photo of Trisha.)

Trisha and I reunited at the state tournament four years ago. She contacted me to say she would be there, watching the sister of one of her Southwest State teammates. We rode around the course at Pebble Creek in Becker in a golf cart and had a grand time.

When I speak to groups or classes about working as a journalist for several decades now, one of the frequent questions is, “What are some of your most memorable stories?”

I often mention Trisha. A few days before I drove to Clara City to meet her in 2010, I had spoken to a gathering of athletic directors in Marshall. I told them that I was always looking for stories to tell, saying. “I'm convinced that there is at least one great story at every school in Minnesota.”

The next day I received an email about Trisha from Mike Dammann, then the athletic director at MACCRAY. The subject line said “Story?”
It was indeed a story, an unforgettable story about an unforgettable person.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea" wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.]

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