Girls track coach of the year

Kenny Wheeler inspires more than his team

Caroline Corcoran, Multimedia Manager

Entering his 16th season as part of the Pleasant Valley Girls Track and Field team, head coach Kenny Wheeler continues to make an impact on high school athletics, teaching his athletes lessons that travel beyond the track. 

During the previous track season, Wheeler was awarded the 2022 IGHSAU Golden Plaque of Distinction. This award recognizes the successful career of a coach who has not only led their team to athletic success, but also positively impacted the school and coaching community in areas that go beyond the track and field season. 

With his newfound recognition, Wheeler is continuing to inspire his past, present and future athletes, both on and off the track. College junior Morgan Ramirez ran track at PV through all four years and continued her running career at Loras college. “Throughout my years in high school, my years on the team, and even now, Kenny is someone I could reach out to for just about anything. If I just needed someone to talk to about struggles within my track career or even about struggles within my personal life. He is a great mentor and role model to all athletes he has ever coached,” Ramirez said.

Wheeler’s impact on Ramirez and the PVGTF family is a widespread occurrence. Many athletes who have been a part of the PVGTF family call it a second home where they gain more confidence in themselves and their abilities. 

This feeling of home is what Wheeler works to create as he develops this program and his athletes everyday. “My greatest hope for the young women that come through this program is that they develop a greater sense of self and self-worth, confidence, courage, and a greater capacity to be uncomfortable and understand that that is where the greatest growth can occur,” said Wheeler.

As Wheeler continues to coach, he strives to learn more about his athletes and how to better understand and inspire them. “In the first decade of coaching this team, I got to coach alongside my wife and that was really special,” he said. “Not only did I learn a number of invaluable lessons about how to coach young women and to see things from their perspective, but I saw the way she connected with the team, inspired them, and instilled her passion in others.”

As a coach, it is important to understand athletes in terms of the sport and a personal level. Anxiety, depression, and burnout are not uncommon amongst high school female athletes as they figure out who they are in a world where social media creates unrealistic standards of perfection. Wheeler constantly checks in on his athletes, making an environment where athletes feel understood and valued.

Senior athlete Malayna Albertson feels she has grown as an athlete and person during her time on PVGTF as a result of Wheeler constantly checking in and building confidence in his athletes. “Throughout the year, in season and out of season, Kenny is someone I can reach out to when I’m overwhelmed with balancing everything,” said Albertson. “I have grown so much confidence in myself and I have learned lessons that go far beyond the track during my time on PVGTF,” she added. 

 With Wheeler constantly supporting them, these athletes are able to surpass their own limits because, in addition to the confidence they have in themselves, they have a coach who is confident in them and sees unlimited potential.

PVGTF has a legacy of excellence, hard work and championships with athletes that have graduated and carried these characteristics with them. This legacy motivates future athletes, and Wheeler’s legacy as a coach recognizes the athletes and community that he has created and will continue to inspire.