How Many XC Runners Does It Take to Set Up a Triathlon?

From left to right: Abigail Koch ’25, Kiera Marshall ’25, Aidan Flynn ’24, Kira Cmiel ’23, and Melia Cmiel ’25 show off their volunteer t-shirts. (PAW photo credit: Terry Lee)

Running, biking, swimming–all things a cross country team does as part of their training.  But for the Providence Academy cross country team, they’re also a way to annually partner with a local non-profit organization to help children of all ages and capabilities.

CycleHealth, an Eden Prairie-based non-profit focused on beginning a new “cycle” of health in America through kids, puts together one of their signature events: the BreakAway Kids Triathlon. And for nearly a decade, PA’s cross country team has put in countless volunteer hours to help put together this amazing event.

In 2012, head cross country coach Mrs. Rachel Fogle was on the lookout for a meaningful team outreach.  She recalls,  “I wanted the team to find the value in helping others. [CycleHealth Director] Tony Schiller called me one day, looking for a few volunteers to come and help by running next to a couple of kids with special needs at the triathlon. It’s just expanded from there.” 

Schiller, CycleHealth co-founder, and national triathlon champion spoke about why this event means so much to him: “This race is to give kids a new outlook, and a feeling of ‘I can do things in life.” 

Schiller continued, “For any young person close to where I was as a kid–if they’re not confident in sports or have not had victory in movement–I want to make sure that when they come to one of our events, they cross the finish line and their thought is ‘I just did this.’

The annual Saturday morning event takes a team effort to set up. The first volunteering shifts start on Thursday afternoon and go all the way into late Saturday. Team captain, Sophie Koch ‘22, was one of the many people who were there for almost all of the volunteer shifts. 

Though the hours were demanding, Koch drew on the general enthusiasm to keep her own energy up. She noted, “Just the whole energy of the event, when you’re there at 6:30 in the morning, it’s what keeps you going throughout the day.” 

Koch continued, “It’s a really good team of people to volunteer with because those who are there really want the kids to have a good time. 

XC captain Sophie Koch ’22 poses with her sister, Abigail Koch ’25, in front of the supply van before unloading for the triathlon. (PAW photo credit: CycleHealth)

Schiller agrees, it does take a team to put together the BreakAway Kids Triathlon, and is thankful for the helping hands of PA cross country. “We wouldn’t have been able to get it done without this team. I’m filled with gratitude for the commitment and the joy they bring to the work.”

All this work doesn’t come without a little bit of fun. After the racers had finished, there was a big party in the bubble machine. When asked what her favorite memory from the 2021 Kids Triathlon was, Fogle agreed that she “loved watching the PA volunteers play in the bubbles. It really showed the spirit of the team. They’d spent hours doing grueling work, but they still found the fun in the day.”

David Bakke ’24, Nolan Semsch ’25, Thomas Slattery ’25, and Aly Marshall ’23 pose together before heading off to their stations.

But the hard work and fun do not end here. CycleHealth puts together 4 different events throughout the year, amazing volunteering opportunities and fun outdoor activities to join with family and friends. While the cross country team will be too busy training for sections during CycleHealth’s next event, there are plenty of chances for families and kids of all ages at this year’s Resilinator, an epic 2.5-mile buddy race filled with obstacles and fun challenges. For more information, visit http://cyclehealth.org/events/.

Dance Team Debut

A giant balloon shaped like a lion’s head. Volunteers sporting yellow PA Spirit T-shirts. The marching band playing famous tunes. This year’s annual Plymouth Parade was alive with friendly faces and Providence Pride. But most noticeable were the girls marching ahead of the band with pom poms, dance routines, and T-shirts that read: “Providence Academy Dance Team.”  

While there were no judges, stage makeup, or even a scorecard in sight, Saturday, September 18th was a big day for this dance team. In fact, it was the very first day. For the first time in its twenty year history, Providence Academy now has a dance team competing in MSHSL events

The creation of this team has been a long time coming. In the past, students interested in dance haven’t had an opportunity to perform competitively for PA. Instead, their dancing outlet consisted of the Spirit Squad—a small group of girls who lead cheers at football games—and gathering support for an official dance team.

This didn’t seem possible until Second Grade Teacher Tasha McMorrow joined the faculty. When she joined the PA community two years ago, McMorrow had nine years of teaching dance under her belt, having taught at Duluth Marshall, St. Cloud Cathedral, and Anoka.

McMorrow’s skills came to light when she choreographed the Safety Dance music video, the iconic clip posed at the end of last school year to celebrate the safe navigation of the tumultuous school year during COVID times (linked below). After this put her name on the map, McMorrow finally got approval to start the team, which now boasts nine members.

Dance Team members Lillian Haapoja’24, Kathy Mogere ‘26, and Pamela Garcia ‘25 prepare themselves for the Plymouth Parade.  The Plymouth Parade is the first time Providence Academy’s dance team is competing as an MHSHL activity.

 The PA community is thrilled about this new addition. 

“I’m excited to compete; dance is my favorite thing in the world,” enthused Danielle Kukuljan ‘24, captain of the new team.

McMorrow echoed her excitement, “Parents scream and cheer the whole time during a competition, which is something you can’t get at a formal ceremony on a stage.”

An energetic crowd is not the only thing the dance team has in common with other MHSHL sports. Dance is a winter sport, starting in October and ending in February. It will function similarly to other sports as well, with after-school practices, weekend competitions, and even silly team bonding activities.

Being their first performance for PA, the Plymouth Parade showcased for the first time the girls’ passion and dedication. 

“My biggest takeaway from the parade is that people see we’re a team now; it brought more awareness,” reflected team member Annika Bruce ‘24.

Now that the team has been established, the next goal is to build it up. It is starting small, with only a jazz team, but hopes to add a tap group in the years to come.

Annika Bruce ‘24 and Lillian Haapoja ‘24 advertise the dance team at the Club Fair on Wednesday, September 15th.  So far, nine girls have joined the team, though registration does not close until October 25th.

But that is not the team’s only wish for this year. 

McMorrow reported, “I hope to establish a strong program where the girls grow and learn what Minnesota dance team is all about, and to get the whole school ready to cheer on the Lions Dance team!”

For more information about the dance team, contact Mrs. McMorrow at [email protected]

Link to the Safety Dance Video: https://player.vimeo.com/video/611800034?h=cc9d9860a1 

Two Decades Later: PA Remembers 9/11

The beginning of this school year marks a momentous anniversary for Providence Academy.  Two decades ago, a brand new campus welcomed students for the first time. But another 20th anniversary casts a mournful shadow over an otherwise jovial occasion: September 11, 2001. Last Friday, in their yearly tribute, Providence Academy students and staff honored local first responders and remembered the 2,977 American lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Seventh graders Claire Wikenheiser, Emma Millerbernd, and Kate Hudson help to set up flags for the ceremony.

Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders added, “It is certainly an honor to hold this ceremony each year at Providence Academy. This tradition began so organically and it truly is the students that have made it the event it is.”

Students, parents, teachers and first responders stand with their hands over their hearts while saying the Pledge of Allegiance during the ceremony.

Fire trucks and police cars processed through, as has become the tradition, looking out over the silent students standing solemnly with their hands over their hearts. This year’s ceremony, however, went beyond the salute to first responders. After the procession, emergency personnel parked their vehicles and joined the students in front of the school to hear guest speakers and a performance from the Upper School band.

Providence Academy’s commemoration is unique among schools, indeed in the community at large. When Plymouth Mayor Jeffry Wosje was asked if he had several other 9/11 ceremonies to attend over the weekend, he replied “No, this is the only one. I wish more organizations would do something, but Providence is the only one, and it means so much to our first responders.”

The commemoration certainly meant a lot to Captain Robert Topp of Plymouth. He reflected, “Being a police officer is definitely a tough job. Seeing a tribute like the one held at PA is so rewarding and it truly restores my faith in humanity.”

Captain Topp continued, “…it shows the patriotism everyone at Providence Academy holds. I wish the whole country would go back to the patriotism and unification shown immediately after 9/11.”

But no student in the building today was alive to witness the tragedy or recall the kind of solidarity Captain Topp longs for. 

Flanders noted, “It is crucial we teach the younger generation to love what they ought to love; we must present young people with a recreated understanding of what it was and is…a ceremony like this instills in all of us what nobility is.”

First grade teacher Mrs. Erin Lee echoed, “Patriotism is such an important value at Providence Academy.” Lee reflected that, from a young age, “we must show students the true importance of the virtue of patriotism, not just tell them. A ceremony like the one held this past Friday allows us to do so.”

First grade teacher Mrs. Robyn Steinbrueck remarked, “If students don’t leave Providence with a love of country, God, and life, they have missed the boat. Providence strives to live out these values in everyday life; the 9/11 tribute is one way we honor them.”

Flanders recalled, “In 2001, as a new institution, we had elements of our mission in place. Those core values were attacked on September 11. Articulation in defense of those things– freedom, virtue, selflessness–has been an integral part of our mission, our identity, ever since.”

Detective Alex Johnson ’05, reflecting on the tragedy of 9/11 while overlooking all in attendance of the 2021 remembrance ceremony.

The keynote speaker of the ceremony–and a highlight for many in attendance–was Detective Alex Johnson ‘05, a member of the first graduating class of PA. Now working in San Antonio, Johnson emphasized the value of these formative years for students: “It is in these classrooms and in the chapel upstairs where you learn about those truths that are worth devoting your life to. It is here you can find and grow to love those things that are worth defending with great moral, spiritual, and physical courage. It is here you don the armor used to face the dragons in this world.”

Farewell Mrs. Harrington

Teacher, Coach, Director, Mother. Mrs. Kelly Harrington has assumed all those roles throughout her seventeen years at PA. And now, Harrington will embark on a new journey as Director of grades 6-12 at Hill-Murray School in St. Paul. Though she will be deeply missed, Harrington takes beautiful memories with her while she leaves an incredible legacy with all she has accomplished during her time within the ‘yellow walls.’ 

Harrington made the decision to move to Hill-Murray School on behalf of her family. For multiple years now, her three children have been at three different schools and it has become increasingly difficult to manage everyone’s schedule. 

“I really wish I could stay at PA,” articulated Harrington, “I love it here, and it is so hard for me to leave. This is a decision I had to make for my family and it is truly what was best for all of us.”  

Harrington has taught in all three divisions at PA–Lower, Middle, and Upper school–and has loved every part of it. She started her career at PA in the Lower School as a fourth grade instructor.

A warm memory from a cold day, Harrington recalled a funny present from Mr. John Wagner in her fourth grade classroom.  Wagner delivered a real snowman in her room while she was out. (PAW Photo credit, Kelly Harrington)

“She has always been my right hand,” commented Mrs. Nancy Galgano, Lower School Director. “She never stopped working, even when she was on her maternity leaves. I had to remind her what a leave was! She just cared so much about her job as well as her students.”

Harrington then coordinated pre-K for a year before moving to the Middle School wing, where she served as Director and history teacher. Her most recent title will be the last she holds at PA as Upper School Director.

Though known for her dedication to PA’s faculty and administration, Harrington has also made significant contributions to athletic programs, a natural outlet, given her passionate involvement in student life.  She has coached softball and volleyball in the course of her tenure at PA. 

In 2004, Harrington took the position of JV Volleyball coach with Physical Education teacher, Mrs. Colleen Carron, who began teaching at PA the same year as Harrington. They coached volleyball together for two years and then, in the spring of 2006, Harrington started the softball program while Carron was her JV team coach. Carron and Harrington have coached a total of five years together and become very close friends.

 “Though this is not the end of our relationship, what I will miss most about being around her often is her ability to make me laugh and her support through life’s ups and downs,” lamented Carron. “I will also miss her passion for students and their education; they have always been her priority.” 

Carron and Harrington have experienced a number of milestones in their lives throughout their friendship:  not only have they started two sports teams and a chapter of their teaching career together, they have also endured pregnancy at the same time.

Carron and Harrington (center) pose for a picture with their 2005-2006 Volleyball team. (PAW Photo credit, Kelly Harrington)

With children only fourteen days apart, Harrington and Carron have enjoyed sharing stories and experiences as they have journeyed through motherhood together while still investing in the lives of their students and their own professional development.

Carron recalled a funny story that neither she nor Harrington will ever forget. During a fire drill, then fourth grade teacher Harrington told her students not to talk. What she didn’t know was that there was a snake on her foot. Her obedient pupils did not tell her about the overly friendly reptile. Carron can still recall the expression on Harrington’s face when she saw her new companion.

A woman who has worn many hats, Harrington will be greatly missed by everyone in the Providence community. As she begins a new chapter, students and faculty alike wish her the best of luck in her next adventure at Hill-Murray. 

Field Day Festivities

Egg in spoon races, potato sack hops, and obstacle courses can only mean one thing: Field Day in the Lower School! An annual favorite for kindergarten through 5th grade students, a sunny but windy day set the stage for a fun-filled Field Day last Friday May 28. 

Mr. Tim Subialka, Lower School physical education teacher, organizes this full day event, and ensures that there are enough parent volunteers to help run the stations on the football field, where Field Day takes place. In past years, all participating grades were out on the field at the same time. This year, due to COVID-19 protocol, third, fourth, and fifth graders participated during the morning, while kindergarten, first, and second graders participated in the afternoon. 

Some Field Day activities, including the obstacle course, potato sack race, 50 yard dash, hurdles, and egg balancing race, were conducted in heats, boys against boys and girls against girls. Girl and boy heats ended in a final round to determine winners. The other activities consisted of the long jump, egg toss, shoe kick, and softball throw. Students practice these events in PE class in anticipation of Field Day to prepare students for full participation in the day’s events. 

Second graders Gunnar Bassett, Nolan Hubbard, and Calvin Connelly enthusiastically jump over hurdles as a part of Field Day festivities last Friday on the PA track. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Though the day is full of unique activities and competitions, some students are still most excited for traditional foot races. Second grader Calvin Connelly commented, “My favorite activity for Field Day was the 50 yard dash.” In this activity, students simply had to stay in their own lane until the finish line. The winners of each round faced each other in the final race. 

Fourth grade teacher and PA track coach Mrs. Amy Hohenecker reflected on the student favorites, “Students tend to like the ones where they’re competing simultaneously.” 

Field day cultivates a competitive spirit which also teaches students important lessons regarding teamwork and good sportsmanship. Hohenecker elaborated, “It’s a big team building event that teaches kids to be okay if something doesn’t go the way they want it to.” 

First graders Jack Illies and Rey Sharma approach the halfway point in the potato sack race on the football field during Field Day. (PAW photo credit: Mrs. Rachel Hope)

Mrs. Becky Connelly, a parent volunteer, assisted at the softball throw station, where students threw a softball twice, recording their best score. At the end of the activity, the top four scores for boys and girls were recorded. Connelly reflected on her experience with the students, “The kids were adorable, good little listeners.”

Subialka commented on the purpose behind Field Day, “Mrs. Galgano (the Lower School Director) and I both agree that Field Day is all about the classes having a fun class experience.” He added, “The fun comes from sharing the day with your classmates.”