How senior Kiri McNerney found freedom in running


courtesy of Kiri McNerney

Kiri McNerney runs on a local trail. Trail running has become a form of solace during COVID.

Chloe Rankin, Guest Writer

Sophomore year: the Homecoming Game.

The Manitou band was eagerly waiting for the next touchdown. Students huddled together in puffy winter coats. The cheerleaders rattled their pom poms to mask their shivering. Kirianna “Kiri” McNerney (12) was never a big fan of football. She dodged the hounded bleachers and the blaring lights. She said it felt “confusing” to be in her shoes that year.  She was anxious, awkward, overtly kind…afraid of hurting anyone’s feelings.

She attended the game with a few friends: Will, Adam, and Matt. They were a year younger and more impertinent than Kiri was at the time. Even so, she still enjoyed their company. The three of them led the way across the sidewalk, while Kiri trailed behind. The boys claimed there was nothing at ​the game​ that could excite them further, so they decided to ditch. Kiri perked up at the idea. They all made their way towards the woodlands behind the Middle School.

Kiri was ill prepared for the oncoming weather. She timidly trekked the woods, feet aching from the heels she wore. The single digit air crept through her flannel. The moon peeked through the branches. She decided to take the heels off, feeling the expanding earth below her. Her feet quickly grew numb. They eventually reached the top of the high school, pausing to gaze at the illuminated American flag. Kiri said it was the first time she’d ever felt patriotic. She could hear the muffled cheers from the field below. The school parking lot was dimly illuminated by the field’s tower lights. The extended isolation was clear before them.

Her friends decided to play Truth or Dare. To reiterate, Kiri was afraid of hurting her friends (the ​sole purpose​ of Truth or Dare). She decided to run the track, instead. It was a spur of the moment decision. She wasn’t quite sure how she came up with the idea. Yes, her feet were still completely numb. They only turned worse when meeting the surface of the track. Yet, a bubbling fire rose in her belly. No longer could she hear the cheers from the crowd below or the snickers from her scheming friends. Most importantly, her worry had vanished. No longer did she need to think about her World History test or if her Biology partner would keep slacking off. Her inner conflict gave way to exhilaration. The wind threaded through her hair. Her heart thumped in her ears. She’d never felt more free.

Running was Kiri’s “newfound passion”. She’d later decide to join the track team. The important lesson to note is how instantaneously she felt a connection. Almost as if running was waiting to be uncovered by her.  Sticking to what you’re passionate about is important, but it’s equally important for you to lose yourself in it. As Kiri would say, discover new passions. Especially ones that feel as if they’re made just for you.