CHARLESTON – McKenna Kiple walked into Wheaton Warrenville South High School expecting to be a soccer player.
Four years later, she leaves as perhaps the most distinguished female distance runner to ever come through the doors.
On Saturday, Kiple put an exclamation point on her outstanding career by placing second in the 800-meter run at the Class 3A state meet. She walks away with six all-state medals, spanning both track and cross country.
“She is the standard,” said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Rob Harvey, “and that’s who girls from now on will aspire to be.”
In her final race in a black and orange uniform, the senior posted a personal-best time of 2:11.74, shattering her own school record time by three seconds. It took Courtney Clayton of Rockton Hononegah breaking a 27-year-old state record in the event to beat her.
“I was really happy,” said Kiple, who played soccer her freshman year before giving up the sport and switching over to track. “Courtney is an amazing runner and she definitely deserved that first place and deserved to break the record. I was proud of myself and I’m happy that my last race as a Tiger was a success.”
But right after she crossed the finish line, Kiple was a mix of emotions.
“I was happy with my performance but also really sad that my time as a Tiger was over,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, it’s over.’ It really hit me when I walked out of the stadium, that this is it.”
It’s not complete over though. Kiple will continue running both cross country and track at Miami of Ohio. And while excited to start the next chapter, she will never forget the past four years.
“Running shaped my entire high school experience,” she said. “All of my best memories have something to do with the track or cross country teams, whether being at a meet or just hanging out with the team.”
One memory stands above all.
“I’ll never forget our state championship last year in the 4x800-meter relay,” Kiple said. “I am such good friends with the girls on the relay and just the fact that we broke nine minutes for the first time (in state history).
“I remember being on the podium with my best friends. I was sitting next to Hope Schmelzle, who I’ve been best friends with for years, and we had tears rolling down our faces. I’ll never forget that.”