August 22, 2011
Duluth Denfeld multi-athlete dies unexpectedly
By Kevin Pates
Running is what Matt Kero loved best. He joined the Duluth Denfeld
High School cross country team as an eighth-grader and qualified
for three Minnesota Class AA meets, finishing as Northeastern Minnesota’s
top entrant last fall as a senior.
He ran in the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon five
straight years, getting faster each year.
He hoped to be among St. Scholastica’s top
cross country runners this fall as a freshman.
Kero’s friendly, determined nature, however,
was quieted Monday morning. He was found dead in his bed at home
about 7 a.m. He was 18.
CPR was performed and paramedics were called.
No immediate cause of death was determined, although an autopsy
was being preformed later Monday.
“I can’t put into words what a competitor
he was and how good of a person he was. He was one of a kind,”
said Denfeld junior Neal Kucera, a member of the cross country team.
“Matt was very humble, but he was also one of the most confident
runners I’ve met. He was a mentor for me, and, anything you
needed, he was there to help.”
Kero, the middle of three children of Tom and
Mary Kero, was a cross country letterman for five years, team MVP
the last three years and on the All-Lake Superior Conference team
four times. He was also a Denfeld hockey varsity defenseman and
ran on the track team.
“Matt was one of the most fearless competitors
I’ve coached,” said Gary Lepisto, a Denfeld cross country
coach since 1986, and a co-coach with Joel Holman. “Every
race and every practice he ran hard and held nothing back. If we
had five runners with Matt’s competitiveness and work ethic,
we would have a team at the state meet every year. He was an absolute
pleasure to have as part of our team.”
Kero was to join St. Scholastica’s team
Monday for a week-long training session at the Covenant Park Bible
Camp in Mahtowa to mark the start of practice.
Last season, he was fifth in the Section 7AA cross
country meet and 81st in the Minnesota Class AA final, moving up
56 spots from the year before. Kero was also in the 2011 Minnesota
Class AA track and field meet in the 1,600 relay and graduated from
Duluth Central, with Denfeld being remodeled and new buildings built
for the return of classes for 2011-12.
Tom Kero, along with brothers, Bill and Jim, attended
Denfeld and played hockey at St. Scholastica. Tom Kero said his
son was looking forward to college.
“He wanted to succeed and was willing to
put in the time to get there,” said Tom Kero, whose youngest
daughter, Jessica, is a sophomore runner at Denfeld. “Running
is what he enjoyed, it was his passion.”
Kero was also a captain of the 2010-11 Central
hockey team and a varsity member for four years. Coach Kevin Smalley,
a 1980 Denfeld graduate who played hockey for the Hunters with Tom
Kero, remembered asking Matt Kero to switch from forward to defense
as a ninth-grader.
“He was great about it, accepted a new position
and worked to become an excellent defenseman,” said Smalley.
“He touched us all by how he represented our school and by
being someone of exceptional character. He was clean cut, he led
by example and had the heart of a lion.”
Smalley said Kero’s hockey jersey No. 4
will be retired before the start of the 2011-12 season.
Kero, who worked in the West Duluth Super One
produce department, had been training over the summer months and
was 113th in the 2011 Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon on June 18.
He finished in 1 hour, 21 minutes, 25 seconds, running with Denfeld
teammate Matt Lepisto, a junior this season.
“Matt was always there. He was always looking
out for other teammates,” said Lepisto. “He wore a necklace
with a cross and prayed before every race. He was truly a good guy
and a gentleman.”
Five years ago, Jarrett Brenner, 18, of Cohasset,
a Grand Rapids High School senior, died during a prep area all-star
basketball game in Duluth on March 24, 2005. It was determined he
died from a rare heart condition.
One of the top athletes from the area of the last
40 years, Terry Egerdahl of Proctor, died Dec. 15, 1980, suffering
cardiac arrhythmia while warming up for a pick-up basketball game.
He was 27.
Plans for services for Kero were not finalized
Monday. Survivors in his immediate family are parents, Tom and Mary,
and sisters, Katie, 21, and Jessica, 15.