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Henderson walks away

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(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)
Sterling softball coach Rick Henderson talks to his players during the sectional title game in Rochelle last spring. Henderson's retirement as a teacher and resignation as softball coach were approved by the Sterling School Board on Wednesday.

Retirement had been on Rick Henderson's mind for a couple years.

This summer, the fifth-grade teacher at Lincoln School in Sterling and the varsity softball coach decided the time was right.

Both Henderson's retirement from teaching and his resignation as softball coach were approved by the Sterling School Board on Wednesday.

"With my son being in Minnesota, I've been wanting to see him more," Henderson said in a phone interview. "And we have grandchildren, and I've missed a lot of things. I've been thinking about it, and our family decided now was the right time."

Henderson, 53, has taught at Sterling for 15 years. He taught in Nelson before that.

"I've been teaching 27 years, and I just decided that's probably long enough," Henderson said. "Sterling has been great. The kids have been great. The parents have been supportive. There are just some other things that I am ready to give a try."

Sterling Athletic Director Greg King can sympathize with Henderson's desire to spend time with family.

King resigned as Sterling football coach after the 2011 season for the same reasons.

"I can understand that," King said. "I just made the same decision to walk away from a highly successful football program for the same reasons. It was just his time to be with family."

Henderson had two stints as softball coach at Sterling, sandwiched around a stint as an assistant coach in Rock Falls.

In 10 years for the Warriors, Henderson had a 229-94-1 record, including a trip to the 3A state tournament in June.

The Warriors finished fourth at the state tournament, and will be losing valuable starters like Stephanie Kester, Priscilla Aponte, Jenn Rahn, Bailey Oetting and Cassidy Gillihan.

Despite the losses, Sterling is expected to be a force next spring, led by 2013 SVM co-player of the year Karlie Mellott.

Mellott, a shortstop, is committed to play at Purdue after her senior year. Sterling will also see an influx of players who, as 11- and 12-year-olds, won the Little League World Series in 2011.

"When you coach, you can look ahead and want to stay for that next group," Henderson said. "It would be easy to never leave. We had a great group, and it's hard to imagine leaving on a better note. I know that they are going to be really good for a long time."

With school starting, King hopes that applications will come from within the system for the coaching position.

"There aren't any teaching positions right now," King said. "We know, though, it'll be an attractive position with how strong the program is."

It is the third position to come open for Sterling since the end of last school year.

Chris Interone resigned as boys soccer coach this summer. Brian Cebula, an assistant under Interone, was approved as head coach Wednesday.

SVM will have more on Cebula in Saturday's edition.

The head baseball position is also open, as Robbie Minor resigned after last season. King confirmed that a candidate will be up for board approval next month.

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