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The pride of PV
October 8, 2019
From their freshman year, success for the both of them was abundant. During McKenzie’s freshman year, the girls’ cross country team was named State Champions. “We were a tight-knit group and dominated all year long,” she said.
And those victories required celebrations. “We consumed large amounts of Whitey’s ice cream that season,” added McKenzie Yanek. Post-run trips to Whitey’s is still the common team pastime.
McKenzie’s younger brother, Nick, had his own countless successes at PV. Among his favorite memories is the boys’ team placing second at cross country’s state meet and fifth at the Nike Cross Nationals during his junior year.
“One thing I will always remember is running at the Drake Relays,” Nick added. “That meet was so much fun due to the amount of spectators. My college teammates are always jealous because I got to run on the famous ‘Blue Oval’ at Drake Stadium.”
Many athletes can agree in order to amount to this much success, passionate coaches are commonly present. Most who have been a part of the Pleasant Valley running programs believe their coaches to be a key element in their success.
For both siblings, the Wheelers have been two of the most inspirational people in their running careers. “Coach Jane and Kenny Wheeler have had the biggest impact on my life,” said McKenzie. “They have shaped me and every other person that has been lucky enough to be coached by them.”
One idea that many runners seem to face is the idea of mental toughness. “Through my four years, I was taught to be my biggest fan, not critic,” mentioned McKenzie.
Luckily for the Yaneks, the Wheelers understood the importance of mind over matter and preached that to the siblings. Nick said, “Coach Jane Wheeler, even though she was the girls’ coach, taught me to look at the bigger picture.”
“I was also inspired by Coach Belby and Coach Sacco,” he said. Many athletes say the boys’ cross country coaches have been known for their “balance of fun and focus” mentality. “Belby helped me learn to push myself while Sacco was the harmony between hard work and fun,” Nick added.
While being fierce competitors at heart, all the Yaneks wanted to do was get better one day at a time. “They both were eager to learn more about their craft to help them improve,” said Jane Wheeler. “I continue to appreciate how they handled themselves in and out of competition and the humility in which they carried themselves despite their success.”