Kiminski, Esko run into sectionsKailee Kiminski can’t exactly remember the name of the racing game she played in elementary gym class, but the Esko sophomore cross country star knew she had record-breaking speed at a young age.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Kailee Kiminski can’t exactly remember the name of the racing game she played in elementary gym class, but the Esko sophomore cross country star knew she had record-breaking speed at a young age.
“You had to touch the wall before a beep and once you didn’t, you were out; I think my highest was 104, maybe 108 touches,” said Kiminski, asking her younger brother how the game worked again. “I haven’t talked to my gym teacher in a while, but I remember she was impressed.”
Kiminski has impressed many over her time as a runner for the Eskomos. The 16-year-old has been one of many stars in the program’s recent dynasty. Also a soccer player, Kiminski manages her time with both sports, as she scored her team’s lone goal in last week’s Section 7A final loss to Cloquet. The slim, 5-foot-3 speedster will help lead state-ranked Esko at the Section 7A girls cross country meet this morning (Thursday, Oct. 25) at the Cloquet Country Club.
A member of the cross country and soccer squads since eighth grade, Kiminski said her alarm clock goes off at 5:30 a.m. for an early run, school and then soccer practice followed by homework and sleep. Last Friday was her first day off from school and both of her busy sports, but the running enthusiast was honest about her mindset that day.
“I knew I needed rest, but I did think about running,” Kiminski said. “When I run, I just enjoy it. It takes a lot of pressure off of me and puts me in a good mood. Smelling the fresh air; I just love it.”
Longtime Esko Coach Jerry Zimny, in his final season, explained that Kiminski is one of the school’s top runners, along with fellow varsity members Marisa and Erika Shady, Kallyn Knutson, Karli Kulas, McKenzie Carlson and Molly Meysembourg. Fighting injuries and illness at times, Kiminski is one who doesn’t like to miss a race.
“It bothers her when she can’t run; she wants to be there, wants to train, wants to compete,” Zimny said of Kiminski, his usual No. 2 scorer, behind Marisa Shady. “She’s certainly a regular and a talented runner.”
Shady elaborated on Kiminski’s work ethic, noting the two push each other regularly.
“Whatever Kailee does, she puts 100 percent into it; she’s a hard worker and dedicates herself to whatever she’s in,” she said. “She’s a sparkplug for a lot of sports and came in with an immediate impact.”
Kiminski said she and her teammates are confident heading into the postseason, noting their ultimate goal would be to win the state title. The Esko boys, led by Ben Hanson, Joey Johnson, Matt Rengo, Ben Mattinen and Trenton Menor, are section contenders as well. Both teams also ran away with the Polar League titles in Grand Marais.
“If we ran our best times and we won as a team, that’d be awesome; I actually couldn’t describe how excited I would be,” Kiminski said of their high hopes for the postseason. “This is the year we could do it, I think. And to win it all in Z’s last year would be special.”
“It’s not about him, he’s not about that,” said Cloquet Coach Mike Bushey. “He does it for the kids to be successful. If they won, that would be super cool. They’re a local team – a great team.”
Bushey’s Cloquet boys are also good, and will be contenders in the Section 7AA meet today (Thursday, Oct. 25) in Princeton. Junior Dylan Marvel leads the boys, while eighth-grader Anja Maijala has state hopes for the girls.
Much like Kiminski, elementary records and all.
“Some of us are going to be gone next year, but I’ll come back and watch them run when I can,” senior Marisa Shady said, “and I know Kailee will be here keeping up the program’s tradition. She will be a big part of that.”