It ended like it was supposed to, but Erik Christopherson’s journey was anything but.
The Melrose-Mindoro guard was in the lineup for Tuesday’s senior night game against Lincoln, and led the team with 19 points in a 75-50 victory, an uplifting end to a treacherous two-year period.
On the first night of the 2015 football season, Christopherson began experiencing shoulder pain after making a tackle. It started with his right shoulder before spreading to his left.
During the playoffs, Christopherson suffered a hip flexor when making another tackle. It cost him part of the basketball season.
The biggest blow came in March 2016. Melrose-Mindoro was undefeated and poised to reach the state tournament for the second time in school history, but fell to La Crosse Aquinas in the Division 4 sectional semifinals. Christopherson scored a season-high 27 points, but suffered a torn labrum while defending Chris Ancius.
“My arm got caught in his motion, kind of jerked it back. That’s when it came out,” Christopherson said.
He had surgery at Rochester Mayo a few weeks later, and after recovering all summer, was back for his senior football season.
Christopherson had a few minor incidents with his shoulders, but was a playmaker for the Mustangs.
Five games into the basketball, tragedy struck again.
“The doctors say it was the worst possible way it could happen. If they had to draw something up, that’s the way they would draw it up,” Christopherson said. “I just kind of tripped and landed extended out, my arm was up, landed on the ball. That’s when it came out again, my right one.”
The labrum tear was not as bad as his first one, but it cost Erik six games. He was not about to let his senior season slip way though.
"I never want to quit on something. I've always been pushing just to finish the season out. If basketball's my final season then I guess it's my last season, but I'm not going to quit short of it," he said.
Christopherson returned to the court on January 24 at Black River Falls and was the team’s leading scorer with 27 points.
Three games later, he scored 28 points.
“He’s been throwing up 25 and 28 every night since, and I know he’s not in shape. He knows time is short, and it’s urgent and he’s playing that way,” head coach Dale Christopherson said. "I don't know if I would have got back out and played, so I'm proud of him, I'm very happy for him. But it's been tough watching him go through it and persevere. He is, he's persevering."
Erik still has his sights set on becoming the school’s all-time leading scorer. He needs to reach 1,403 points to surpass former teammate Aaron Scafe. At the end of the regular season, Christopherson sits at 1,343, just 61 points shy of breaking the record.
If he does, it will be just one more comeback for this mighty mustang.