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‘A little piece of our hearts went with him’: Small communities come together to mourn the tragic loss of Jacob Quam

HENNING, Minn. -- On Thursday afternoon, April 13, players on the Ottertail Central football and Henning basketball teams met in the weight room at Henning High School. The sign-in sheet had sophomore Jacob Quam’s name all over it.

Like most weeks, he had been in the weight room every day. His name was not there Thursday.

While driving to school to lift weights about 6 a.m. on Thursday, Quam died in a head-on crash with a semi. According to a Minnesota State Highway Patrol report, a semi heading west on Highway 210 near Vining struck Quam’s car traveling east in foggy conditions. It’s not known at this time if either driver was distracted or if both had their headlights on. The crash remains under investigation.

“I still haven’t been able to process it fully,” said Henning basketball coach Randy Misegades. “I keep thinking he’s going to walk through the door of the gym. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.”

The only boys team Henning High School has that is not part of a co-op is the basketball team.

“Basketball is just a little different,” Misegades said. “It was a pretty tight-knit group.”

All activities were canceled Thursday, but the Henning team wanted to play basketball. After being told in an assembly their teammate was dead, the Hornets wanted to play for Quam. Misegades opened the gym for them.  

“That was the kids,” Misegades said. “That’s what the kids wanted to do because they knew that’s what Jacob would want to do.”

Quam’s uncle came to play, along with some of Quam’s former teammates, who had graduated high school and were home from college. There was no school Friday, but Misegades opened the gym again.

“He was going (to the weight room) to make himself better,” Misegades said. “He was a coach’s dream. I know as his coach I am not supposed to have a favorite, but Jake was definitely a kid you couldn’t help but love."

“He was on track to do great things. He wouldn’t allow himself to fail, whether it was in athletics, as a student, as a son or as a friend. I love him as if he were my own son. A little piece of our hearts went with him.”

By the end of the football season, Quam was a vital part of the defensive line. After battling a football injury, he also started on the basketball team. He came to Henning from Delano, Minn., in seventh grade and was tagged with the nickname “City Boy.”

“Nobody outworked Jacob in football practice or the classroom,” OTC football coach Eric Olson said. “He had great character and modeled what a student-athlete should be. Our Bulldog family, student body and communities are heartbroken about Jacob’s passing.”

Quam’s football and basketball teammates did not lift during that meeting Thursday in the weight room. The weight on their shoulders of the death of their teammate was something no person could lift.

A lesson Misegades so often brings up to his basketball team is to handle what they can control. When he said the team is in control of two things in the meeting, his players responded by saying, “Attitude and effort.”

“We talked about not wasting days because you’re not guaranteed the next one,” Misegades said. “Whether it’s family, or school or life or anything, put forth your best effort and come with a good attitude every single day because you aren’t guaranteed another one.

“Jacob was a prime example of that. He had the best attitude and effort every single day.”

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