Cole Christian never shied away from the toughest tasks during his Richfield athletic career.
Whether it was as the football team’s slot receiver, the basketball team’s key defender off the bench, or as the baseball team’s starting center fielder, Christian showed his teammates that hustle can have a big impact on a game.
“Hustle is something you can control,” Christian said. “I like to do whatever I can to better the team and I know hustle can bring the team up if we’re down.
“Hustle can bring our mental and physical play up.”
Christian said his sense of hustle came from his parents, who he wanted to play well for after they were able to help put him in a good position to exceed in athletics as a child.
“When I was a kid they would do whatever they needed to do to get me what I needed,” Christian said. “If I needed a new glove, they would get me a new glove, if I needed anything, they got it.
“Them putting in their time for me made me want to do that for other people.”
While hustle is always considered a good thing, Christian’s passion for performing tasks many of his teammates shied away from also led to some difficult moments. During the football season, one of Christian’s jobs was to make the tough catches over the middle. While making those catches can help his team march down the field, those plays also opened Christian up to receiving some big hits from opposing defenders.
The biggest hit Christian took came Sept. 4, 2015 against Orono, where Christian was hit on a catch over the middle and was down on the field for several minutes before an ambulance came to take him to the hospital.
“From watching the film I kind of have an idea of what happened, but I still don’t remember the incident,” Christian said. “I remember the play being called, the ball being hiked and me running the route and that’s it.
“I woke up in the back of the ambulance.”
While Christian suffered no long-term injuries, the experience was still scary for him. Despite his injury, Christian showed up at practice four days later, wanting to join his team on the field.
“Because it was football and I felt there was such a brotherhood there I didn’t want to let anyone down,” Christian said. “I wanted to be there with them the next week.”
Christian eventually returned to the Spartans and helped lead Richfield to a 3-6 record in 2016, his senior season with the football team.
“This football year was amazing with the brotherhood and the family feel of it,” Christian said. “That just put it above all three sports, honestly, because I felt we were all just one.”
That feeling of unity extended into Richfield’s basketball season, where Christian played a key role off the bench for a team that advanced to the section title game. With many talented scorers on the roster, Christian knew his job was to sink the occasional three-pointer and play solid defense.
“I always pride myself on defense, even when I was in travelling ball as a youth,” Christian said. “I was always good at defense, so I figured I had to do what the coach needed me to do.
“Other guys don’t like playing defense, but I don’t mind.”
The Spartans finished just three points shy of reaching the Class 3A state tournament last season, but every player on the team felt the team could have advanced further.
“The St. Thomas game, that was heartbreaking,” Christian said. “After the game I felt like I could have put more out on the court for us to get there, and that let me down.”
Christian ended his Richfield career with his closest friends on the Spartans’ baseball team.
“Playing on the varsity team for baseball over the last three years has been fun,” Christian said. “Me, Matt [McGlinn], and Patrick [Voigt] have all been on there since sophomore year, now getting all my other friends on varsity is even better.”
While many Richfield athletes often feel pressure to play three sports in order to boost a program’s numbers, Christian said playing three sports in high school was a blessing.
“Most of the guys in my friend group are all three-sport athletes, so there’s really [not any pressure to be a three-sport athlete],” Christian said. “That’s how I wanted to go about it, and I don’t mind the time-consuming part, because I like all three sports.”
With his Richfield career having come to a close with the end of the baseball season, Christian said he will look back fondly on his experience at Richfield.
“Being a Spartan is honestly the best thing in the world,” Christian said. “I’m going to miss this place so much.
“Honestly [being a Richfield Spartan] was just an honor. Knowing what great players have been here before me, being able to play all three sports is just an honor.”
Christian will attend St. John’s University in the fall and he will maybe look to join the baseball team.
Follow Chris Chesky on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris, or on Facebook at SunSportsStaff.