MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The girls track and field team at Apple Valley has a new head coach this season. It’s a name well-known to the track community in Minnesota — the last name, at least.
It’s a story about legacy, and what it’s like to follow a legend.
These days, she watches just like the rest of us. But when it comes to track and field, there’s the rest of us, and then there’s Geri Dirth.
“I had a great run at it,” she said. “I’m gonna start crying here! I absolutely loved it.”
What kind of person wants to walk into that shadow? As it turns out, her son.
“It was something that I knew was going to be a very, very tough challenge, to even come close to live up to,” Dalen Dirth said.
Dalen had a front-row seat for his mom’s success. They were a track and field family, living and breathing the sport. Both parents were coaches — he and his siblings all competed.
“I feel like I wasn’t going to be living in the house anymore if I didn’t go out for track and field,” Dalen said.
“We put our life, and our hearts and soul into Apple Valley,” Geri said.
So if there’s anyone who knows what it means to take over the program that his mom made a powerhouse, it’s him.
“It’s hard to follow her up, but I’m going to try my hardest,” he said.
He sees it as his responsibility to restore the program to the level she took it.
“The last three, four years we haven’t been where we wanted to be,” Dalen said.
He’s doing everything he can think of to do that — even going as far as a letter-writing campaign to get girls out for the program.
“Took a bunch of time and personally wrote letters to a lot of girl athletes that I thought that would be successful in track, just letting them know that I’m here and I think they’d be successful in track,” he said. “And I believe that I can, over time, bring at least a little bit of that success back that my mom had in the past.”
“He has a huge heart, and I’m just so happy,” Geri said. “It makes us proud just to watch him coach, and to know that he’s doing what he loves.”
It’s the thing she loves. She built it, it’s her baby, and now it’s in the hands of her actual baby.
“I’ve had my time, now it’s his moment in time,” Geri said.
“Just the tradition that she has built, I’m trying to continue,” Dalen said. “And the legacy of her having multiple multiple state titles, I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but I’m going to try my hardest and I know she’s here to help me along the way.”