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Superintendent Listening Post

Cross Country season filled with ups and downs


The Mayo High School Spartans had a strong cross-country season in 2023, with several standout performances and a bright future filled with potential. State qualifiers seniors Ryan Gwaltney and Lucas Olson returned, strengthening the squad and creating a potent 1-2 tandem at the top of the lineup. Gwaltney was a strong candidate because of his triumph at the Rochester All-City Championship the previous year and the fact that he had the best returning time in Section 1AAA. Even though Gwaltney struggled in the state competition the year before, Coach Kinneberg was expecting big things from him as well as Will Leasure, a multi-event qualifier at the Kasson Track and Field Elite Meet, who was a freshman standout.

Ryan Gwaltney pushes hard to out-pace the competition.

The loss of a few strong senior runners will be sad, but the team was encouraged for the next campaign by the arrival of strong sophomores. Additionally, the return of varsity runners Katrina Larson and Willemiin Leiner gave the Spartans tremendous support throughout the campaign. Underclassmen also made significant strides this season, as demonstrated by 8th grader Liz Brewer’s outstanding results in the 1600 and 800 meter runs at the Kasson Track and Field Elite Middle School competition.

Sophomore Flora Bolster had good feelings about the season, which she described as “both brutal and fun.” Even though the girls’ cross country team lost all eight of its meets, Bolster highlighted her own accomplishments, and rightly so, as she “rose to third in the varsity standings.” 

Some of the members of the girls Cross Country team include (l-r) Harper Doe, Lillian Mills, Flora Bolster,

Liz Brewer, Willemijn Leiner, Olivia Chapman (on the iPad), Piper McQuilken, Sloane Bolster, and Carmel Villarama.

The squad experienced leadership turnover since Junior Carmel Villarama replaced Senior Nyla Grantham as spirit captain, giving the team a new and strong leader. The team’s spirit was further highlighted by Willemjin Leiner, who Coach Kinneberg says is the “unofficial leader of girls cross country.” 

Over the previous three years, Coach Kinneberg’s direction was important in forming the Spartans’ cross country program. Her influence on the students she coached at Mayo High School will last long after her time. Her departure represents the end of an era and leaves the cross-country community saddened about her departure.

(L-R) Flora Bolster, Kendra Horseman, Mercy Elijah, Carmel Villarama, and Katherine Bradley prepare for another race.

In Summary, the 2023 cross country season for the Spartans was defined by outstanding accomplishments, promising fresh talent, and a sense of consistency. The squad members’ qualities highlighted their commitment to growth and success in spite of setbacks as they prepared for the seasons and bid farewell to a beloved coach. The team’s ability to work together and overcome obstacles was demonstrated throughout the season as they made impressive progress and had a strong sense of drive. They take the experiences and knowledge they’ve gained with them as they go, transforming into harder-working people and an even more powerful group.

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