Senior runners reflect on cross country


Peter Klepec

Senior Justin Tutt, sophomore Seth Joder, and senior Matt Mason start their road run on a rainy day of practice. “The run felt good. It was nice and cool out,” Tutt, said. Although he faced challenges this season, Tutt looks to his teammates to remind him to stay positive and keep his confidence high, because cross country has a way to reward the runner who really want to succeed.

Peter Klepec, Journalism I

Senior year, the last chance to make a statement, whether it is running a personal record or carrying the team to another championship.

Minooka cross country is unique. Its seniors have expectations and huge goals to accomplish from all levels of ability.  

Tomorrow morning the seniors will run in their last high school meet before the IHSA state series begins.  They compete in the SPC Championship at Channahon Community Park.  Races begin at 9 a.m.

Some senior runners look forward to their career in college, but all look to do something special in their final year running for Coach Kevin Gummerson.  Although being the leaders on the team, these talented and fast athletes look for the people that surround them to help them make senior year the best one.

“The girls on the team always take anyone aside to help them and talk about the race,” Ali Mondrella, senior, said.

Likewise, coaches can be there for their runners just as much as a teammate.

“If I had a bad race, my teammates and coaches cheered me up.  My teammates are always there for me!” Ashley Tutt, senior, said.

This team, especially the girls, never talk about success without talking about the teammates that contribute to their confidence so much.  

Personal records or team goals are bigger than ever for seniors in their final year of high school, which is expected.  However, it is impressive to hear not only that confidence on this team is high, but also that work ethic is even stronger.  They must put everything they got on the line and kick their way to the finish line.

“My goals were to make my last season the best out of all of them and to break 21 minutes,” Megan Stevenson, senior, said.

Andrew Mangun, senior, stands out, having ran 19:26 in his first and junior year.  Mangun wanted to make Top 12 as a senior.  His work has payed off dropping close to a minute this year running 18:34.

As for Matthew Mason, senior, Top 12 junior year just was not enough for him; he wants to compete at a higher level.

“I want to get the team down to state and be part of the Top 5,” Mason said.

Similarly, some runners use their success to not only improve themselves, but to also make their team improve even more.

“I wanted to break 15 minutes and help my team out in the most ways possible,” Justin Tutt, senior, said.

Being an athlete, strong relationships with coaches are bound to happen.  In cross country, the coach-runner relationships are much stronger and personal, because this team is a second family to them.

“(Coach Jessica) Hopkins is my mom,” Mondrella said, “I will also miss them (coaches) goofing around with each other and their runners.”

For Justin Tutt, the coaches were very special and their impacts went far beyond the muddy course on Saturday morning.

“All of the coaches gave me confidence I thought I did not have.  They pushed me hard, in and out of the classroom.  They inspired me to be like them.  I will truly miss my coaches,” Tutt said.  

The seniors have minimal regrets in their cross country careers, but they also realize it is about time to finally run passed the finish line.  It will be hard for them to say goodbye, because cross country has brought them countless memories.

“It is something I will always love and remember,” Mason said, “I will miss spending time with the team and race days, giving it my all on the final stretch.”

Cross country has made some genuine relationships, that a person may never experience again.

“I know I am going to cry.  The team is basically family, as corny as that sounds,” Mondrella said.

For some runners, everything including the little things, was a dream to them.

“I’m going to miss everything about cross country — from the goofy teammates, to the feelings after PRs, to splashing in puddles on road runs,” Mangun, said.

After high school many of the seniors will be or are planning to continue their passion for running in college.  Ashley Tutt has recently committed to NIU, and her brother Justin Tutt plans to run at either North Central College or Murray State. Mackenzie Callahan also committed to NIU.  

Mason is undecided on the college to continue his career, just really wants to compete at the next level, like he had strived for in his whole time at Minooka.

It is not just the top runners either, who look to continue their running career in college.

“I want to win the Junior College Division 3 National Championship at Joliet Junior College,” Mangun said.