Saturday, October 25, 2014
   
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All four Kowalewski kids Catch cross-country bug

Mention cross-country and Gary Kowalewski’s face lights up.

In August, the youngest Kowalewski daughter, Kori, joined the Swede harrier team and three other siblings who compete in the sport.

“It’s really nice, it cuts down on travel and covers all activities for a week,” Gary said with a laugh.

A button with a photograph of all four of the Kowalewski children pinned to his chest, he said he didn’t think cross country was very interesting until his oldest daughter, Morgan, who’s now a senior, decided to lace up her running shoes the fall of her seventh-grade year.

“Then we kind of got into it,” Gary said about he and his wife, Karen. “It’s really interesting plus it gives us exercise.”

During meets, girls run about 2.5 miles while the boys tackle 3.1-mile runs. Junior high students, who train with the high school team, compete for a mile on courses throughout Nebraska.

Spectators position themselves on either side of painted lines to cheer on participants, often running to several places on the course.

All three of the Kowalewski sisters decided to go out for cross country because they weren’t keen on volleyball.

“I wasn’t coordinated enough to do volleyball,” Morgan said laughing.

An older cross-country runner, Kayla Tryon, also encouraged her to try cross country so she did.

When one sibling after another joined the cross-country team, Morgan said she felt like they were copying her.

“But now I feel like a role model and that they’re looking up to me and following in my footsteps,” she said.

Amanda, who’s a sophomore, said she noticed the fun Morgan and her teammates seemed to be having so she decided to give it a try.

“It’s a lot of hard work but at the end of the day, I feel accomplished,” she said.

Because they live in the same house and practice and compete together, Amanda said they’re able to support each other.

“But we also have the entire team behind us,” she said.

Bryce said the sport offers him an opportunity to get into better shape.

He also said he enjoys running with friends outside instead of spending time in a gym.

Bryce went out for cross country as a seventh grader but switched to football in eighth grade.

As a freshman this year, he said it’s been a huge step becoming reconditioned to cross country.

Kori, a seventh grader, could be the most competitive of the group.

“I went out because I wanted to try and beat some of (her siblings’) times,” she said.

She’s also discovered that she loves the sport.

“I like the feeling of finishing and knowing that you can do it,” Kori said.

Her siblings, she said, have helped her understand what goes on during practices.

In addition, “someone might spit out advice about what I can do to get better.”.

For Morgan, the social camaraderie—especially with the high school girls—is the best part of cross country for her.

“I like how it’s like family, the whole team is very close,” she said.

What Morgan has learned during six seasons of running on city streets, country roads and golf courses is to not give up.

“You’re going to have good and bad days but your team and family will always be there for you, not matter what, so keep trying,” she said.

Morgan’s contribution to the sport this season, along with her teammates, earned a runner up plaque at the Minden Invite on Sept. 22—the first in the six years she’s competed.

“I can’t wait to see what they’ll do next year,” she said.

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