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Morenci players, alumni honor softball coach's major milestone

Kay Johnson began coaching in 1972. Since then, she's accrued more than 900 wins. This week, former players decided to celebrate her achievement.

MORENCI, Mich. — Kay Johnson breathes Morenci High School

The Whitmer grad has done just about everything in the Michigan school district, serving as a teacher and middle school principal, as well as athletic director for a stint. 

As a coach, she's led track and field, girls basketball, volleyball and of course, softball.

"It was probably my first love. I played a lot of softball growing up. It wasn't fast pitch but it was slow pitch, and I played a lot. The opportunities to play basketball and volleyball weren't that strong," Johnson said.

This year Johnson is celebrating 50 years at the helm of the program. A lot has happened in the coach's half-century with the Bulldogs, including a pair of state titles, more than 900 wins and countless players.

"A lot of players, I coached their moms," Johnson said. "I try not to think about the third generation but I know they're out there too, so I try not to think about it."

Morenci softball is like a big family, so it only made sense to celebrate Johnson's 50 years with a surprise reunion.

Former players including Jill Owen and Kylene Biggs organized the event, connecting with softball alumni as far back as the 1970s when Johnson began. Owen says Johnson was more involved in the players' lives than any other coach.

"She would come to every function. Academic, athletic. She's been to my birthday parties," Owen, a 2006 graduate, said. "She's a household name, and somebody that I've known and loved, and trusted my entire life."

Players say there's nobody like "Miss J" dedicating their life to serving a community.

"Kay is there. It's just a lifelong relationship you have with Kay once you've been in her program and a part of her team," Judy Pfund, a 1980 graduate, who is also Owen's mother, said.

Johnson says it means a lot to have so many former players come together to honor her career.

"It means a lot," Johnson said. "We've enjoyed a lot of games together, a lot of practices. So for them to come out here after I make them run foul pole laps at practice, it's really nice."

50 years and thousands of practices couldn't have prepared Johnson for a celebration like this. 

And Johnson doesn't plan on retiring just yet. At the event, she said plans on coaching for at least the next three seasons.

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