Kyle Vonnahme running during practice. (photo courtesy Kyle Vonnahme)
Joey Serrano is an ASU Cronkite School of Journalism student assigned to cover Peoria High School for AZPreps365.com
Kyle Vonnahme took an interesting route to becoming a star runner at Peoria. He is coming off an injury riddled season and has had to navigate a year with so many uncertainties brought about by the pandemic. He originally started off in track and field, competing in the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 events, but he soon realized the benefits of long distance running.
He has always had a love for the sport; he has been running since the seventh grade and joined the cross country team when he was a sophomore in high school. Now entering his third year on the team, he is poised to dominate in his section, while also hoping to secure a college scholarship.
Vonnahme’s passion and seriousness for cross country was not automatic. He started off with track and field but realized shortly after talking with a couple of friends and teammates that if he wanted to succeed and thrive in the sport, he would have to do cross country.
“I talked to the guys and they told me that if you really want to be good at this you have to do cross country and track, because cross country is a preseason for track,” Vonnahme said.
His seriousness for cross country has only grown, given that he realizes how much it helps him for the track and field season.
“Now going into my senior year, I take it more seriously and I compete,” Vonnahme said.
Vonnahme, 18, loves everything that cross country has provided and taught him. He loves the uncertainty of running and how things can change on a weekly basis. Because of the global pandemic, this season certainly has had its share of unpredictable obstacles.
“Cross country teaches me to expect the unexpected,” Vonnahme said, “because we might run on a golf course or a circuit mountain and it is very therapeutic for me.”
His hard work and determination make him one of the top runners in the AIA’s Division III sectional. The Arizona sectionals are Nov. 4-5, the state championships are slated for Nov. 12-13 at Cross Roads Park in Gilbert, and until then Vonnahme will do what he’s done all season: push himself to the limit every time he works out so he can be as prepared as he can when it comes to races and meets.
“My goal is to be uncomfortable, my goal is to hurt, as self-destructive as that sounds, I am not crazy. If I don’t give every workout everything that I have, then I will be disappointed in myself, so my motivation allows me to be so successful,” Vonnahme said.
Vonnahme’s coach Jim Kenyon can attest to his work ethic as he sees it on a daily basis and sees how far his top runner pushes himself to be as great as possible.
“He is very focused on running, it is very important to him, it is a big part of what he enjoys and who he is at the high school,” Kenyon said.
Kenyon said Vonnahme’s leadership qualities not only help the team be successful, they push him to succeed in his events.
“He has been an asset as far as leadership goes and has taken freshmen under his wing and has done a lot of work with them,” Kenyon said.
Conner Pate, a sophomore teammate, can attest to Vonnahme’s leadership and work ethic and how much he has helped him grow into a better runner. He also can attest to how much Vonnahme helped him with the mental aspect of running.
“Kyle’s leadership helps me and the team get better mentally and physically every day,” Pate said, “and he pushes me every day to be the best I can be.”
Even with all of these different challenges that come Vonnahme’s way, Kenyon still believes Vonnahme will thrive this year and do better than he has ever done. Vonnahme’s season got cut short last year by injuries so he has been prepared for any twist or turn. He took fourth place in the Desert Twilight XC Festival out of 184 runners on Oct. 1, with a time of 17:26, one of only two races he has competed in because of the pandemic.
“Right now he is sitting at his personal best that he has ever run and hopefully in the next week or two that he will be at a new personal best for sectionals and state,” Kenyon said.
COVID-19 has made this year a little bit more challenging not only for the high school competition but also for Vonnahme securing a spot on a college team. Vonnahme was looking forward to this season as it was his last chance to prove to colleges that he has what it takes to run at the next level, but the coronavirus has forced Valley teams to practice with limitations, has caused several key meets to be canceled and could still force the season to shut down at any time.
All of this adds up to legitimate fears that didn’t exist a year ago.
“I have to race like it’s my last race every time,” Vonnahme said, “so I am nervous that the season might get shut down, and I was injured my junior year so this was my redemption year and if COVID shuts it down then it will be horrible.”
Vonnahme has the skills and work ethic to push his running to another level, and his coach and peers have so much respect for the person and athlete he has become. Given all of the different challenges this season presents, Vonnahme, like so many Valley runners, approaches each high school meet like it might be his last.
He can only hope colleges are taking notes and that he finally gets a college offer he so badly wants. Vonnahme looks to push his body and mind to the max and leave it all on the course, as any race could be his last.