Pictures being gathered for DeShawn Crutch's fast-approaching graduation party share a common thread.
"All we see is his smile," his father, Fluorohn, said. "He's a joyful kid."
Crutch, a senior at Andover, flashed his smile last week while sharing his track and field goals this spring. Three pedestrian finishes at the state meet last year sharpened his focus. He is eager to show what he has learned.
Crutch on the 110-meter hurdles: "My goal is to get right on [defending champion R.J. Alowonle's] hip at the state meet -- me and him going neck and neck in lanes four and five at the finals."
Crutch on competing at the University of Sioux Falls next season: "My goal my first year of college is to break the long jump record [Fluorohn] set at St. Cloud State."
Those statements might sound like boasts. But punctuated by his smile, Crutch's plans reflects the wonderment of what lies ahead.
His future draws in part from his father's past. Fluorohn completed a stellar high school career at Park Center in 1993, earning his sixth all-state citation. He burst into the scene in 1990, running the leadoff leg of the Pirates' first place 4x100 relay team. He ran in the finals of the event four consecutive seasons. He placed third in the long jump as a junior and took second as a senior.
His outdoor long jump mark of 24 feet, six inches -- set in 1996 at St. Cloud State -- still stands as a program record.
"He's always told me to be confident in myself as I run or jump, to believe in my marks and not second guess anything," DeShawn said. "It's just simple stuff like that because when it comes to preparing mentally, you kind of have to do it yourself."
Fluorohn allowed DeShawn to find his own path to track and field. A middle school coach spotted the youngster's natural abilities in hurdles. DeShawn's interest rose as his times dropped.
As a freshman Crutch added the long jump, an event that drew on his father's tutelage. Fluorohn, an assistant track and field coach at Robbinsdale Armstrong, began coaching Crutch during the summer. The two began having more pre- and post-meet phone conversations about track and field and its life lessons.
"That was the thing that took our relationship to the next level," Fluorohn said. "He started by saying, 'I want to be more like my dad.' Then it became, 'I want to be better than my dad.' "
Fluorohn's stories of success, trial and error helped Crutch gain perspective. But he also learned his own tough lessons. He won the 110 hurdles at the conference and section meets. But running along side Buffalo's Jerome Begin, already a three-time all-state hurdler, in the state preliminaries was an education.
"We were even through the first two or three hurdles," Crutch said. "All of a sudden he kicks in a second gear. I didn't learn how to do that yet. So trying to catch up to him I mess up and start hitting hurdle after hurdle."
Crutch got clipped at the line and missed the last finals spot by four hundredths of a second. More than his pride got wounded. Weakened by repeated glances off the hurdles, one of Crutch's ankles was in no shape to long jump. He finished 22nd.
A strong summer of AAU track and field provided the anecdote to Crutch's frustrating state meet. He found a Begin-like second gear and clocked sub-15 second marks in the event. He also long jumped 22 feet. Both marks would have put him among the state's top eight last year.
"It was a very good learning opportunity," a smiling Crutch said of the state meet. "I'm ready to go back this year. I'm staying healthy. I'm confident. I know how to kick in that second gear."
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574