Crossing the Finish Line: A Spectacular End to the Girls’ Cross Country Season

Saturday November 6th was a typical sunny and cheerful day. But, for our girls’ cross country team, it was also the day of the Cross Country State Tournament at St. Olaf College, which they had previously qualified for by placing second at the section meet. 

The state runners (names listed above) huddle together to give each other support before the start of the race.

The 2021 season has been marked by the girls’ outstanding performances and determination. As a testimony of their excellence, the girls placed thirteenth out of all single ‘A’ teams in the state. Captain Sophie Koch ‘22 said, “We ran this race as a celebration of the season.” 

This is not the first time the team has run at State. The girls qualified in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, where they also had very successful runs. Three girls on this year’s team also competed on those previous teams: Koch, Emma Kelly ‘22, and Aly Marshall ‘23.

At this state meet, Kelly finished the race in 23rd place, earning her the title of an All-State Athlete.  Other strong performers include Marshall, and Leni Kuhn ‘26, who both placed in the top 100. 

This was the first state meet for Kuhn and half the team, yet the girls did not let this cause them anxiety. Kuhn commented, “The atmosphere was relaxed. The race itself wasn’t scary, but the large crowds were nerve-wracking.” 

Emma Kelly ’22 and Sophie Koch ’22 pose with Coaches Fogle and Hohenecker before their last high school cross country meet.

“Everyone was very positive before the race and their energy was calm,” Coach Dan Hickel agreed.

Instead of focusing on the crowds or the competitive atmosphere, the girls focused on their bond as a team. They started this process the day before by having a pre-meet pasta party to get excited for the race. Koch remarked, “We like to focus on coming together as a team that always supports one another.” Kuhn elaborated on their bond, commenting, “After the race was over, I wasn’t thinking about myself, but how we got to run together in our last meet as a team with our two senior captains. I am so proud of them.” 

The girls’ captains, Koch and Kelly, performed in the final meet of their high school cross country career, but the future’s looking bright for them, as they both plan for the next steps of their lives in college. Even though the absence of their talent will be a loss for the team next year, the girls have great prospects for the upcoming seasons. Hickel agreed, stating, “We have a young team with a lot of leadership and talent. They possess the mindsets of long-distance runners, which is a great promise for success.”

Senior Sentiments: The Deplorably Daunting Deadline

“Eye-opening,” commented Jimmy Fafinski ‘22 when asked what word describes the college application process for him.

“It broadens your perspective on things,” he continued. “You really have to know who you are. You need to figure that out first, before you begin applying to colleges.”

November 1st was a day Seniors both dreaded and anticipated for months. While “stress” is an obvious buzzword associated with this momentous day, “relief” is another, as the day brings the completion of college applications for many.

Seniors Emma Kelly, Gretta Martin, Olivia Bissonette, and Peyton Menzel work diligently on college applications during study hall.

Most Providence Academy Seniors felt precisely these things for the majority of October. Seniors endured each school day like stiff, drained versions of themselves. They had one goal: to make it past November 1st with their sanity.  

The hallways were filled with sighs, cries of help, complaints, and frantic conversations. One could truly see the tension in the air, it was all-encompassing.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking. What if you don’t get into any schools at all? It’s always something in the back of your mind,” confessed Sophia Menzel ‘22.

Luckily, the frightening day has passed. Celebratory cheers have replaced pleas of help and animation has replaced rigidity. If overcoming the mountain of November 1st has taught PA Seniors anything, it’s that they can tackle whatever comes their way. 

“I’m amazed at how well-prepared, thoughtful, focused, ambitious, and purposeful the seniors are this year,” reflected Mrs. Paige Von Bank, PA’s new College Counselor.

However, the journey isn’t over yet. While some seniors feel relieved, others say the stress is just beginning.

Chungu Mulenga ‘22 openly admitted, “For me, the application process wasn’t that stressful.  I think waiting to be accepted is much worse.”

All 12th graders are at different points in the process. A small number had no November 1st deadlines and have yet to submit any applications. Most seniors are waiting to hear from colleges; however, some have already been accepted and a few have even committed by now.

Emma Kelly ’22 eagerly places her pin in Illinois on the seniors’ map in the atrium after committing to University of Chicago.

Committing to college comes with many rewards, one of which is placing a pin on the map in the Upper School Atrium. Every year, members of the National Honors Society at PA hang a map so seniors can place a pin where they will be next year. By the end of the year, the map is a beautiful illustration of the Class of 2022’s future plans. 

“It’s such a cool tradition. It feels like you’re taking a step toward your future and cementing your decision for the next four years. Pinning it on the board makes it real,” reflected Emma Kelly ‘22, who placed her pin last Friday.

As of Monday, November 8th, the map already displayed four out of the sixty-nine necessary pins. Minnesota, Illinois, California, and Virginia are the four proclaimed destinations.

Whether they felt stressed, relieved, or overwhelmed by the November 1st deadline, the Class of 2022 endured the college application process together. It was a period of growth as well as an opportunity to help one another. They overcame the obstacle together, which made it much easier to swallow.

“More than any previous class of seniors, I see so many students working together,” Upper School Math teacher Mrs. Karen Ostaffe noted after writing recommendation letters for nineteen Seniors. 

“This will serve them very well in college because they’ll need to collaborate in order to succeed,” Ostaffe continued. “And I believe they are up for the challenge.”

Falling for the Fun Fair

From crazy hair to the cakewalk, Lower School students had an absolute blast this past Saturday at the annual Fall Fun Fair. This event, which spreads across three gyms, includes many different minute-to-win-it games where Lower Schoolers can win candy, toys, and cakes. Tickets open up the whole fair and all the games during this joyful day for Lower Schoolers and their families. Although typically advertised for the Lower School, this brings the entire PA community together for a day of amusing fall festivities.

Lower School Director Mrs. Nancy Galgano and her son running the bouncy house at the Fall Fun Fair.

There is something for everyone at the iconic celebration. Lower School students get to run around with their friends and partake in activities like bouncing in the bouncy house, sliding down the inflatable slide, or racing their friends through the blow up race course. Middle and Upper School students can volunteer to run different stations with friends. Volunteering allows them to develop important relationships with younger students. Lastly, parents get to make memories with their children while they enjoy the great day. 

“The Fall Fun Fair allows parents to have the opportunity to have conversations with other parents knowing their kids are entertained and kept busy,” expressed Lower School mother, Mrs. Jessie Bollig, who has run this event for two years now. “It really helps to build a stronger community all around.” 

Fifth Graders AJ Weiland and Henry Hilberg take a break from the day’s activities to pose for a quick picture before they run back to the Fair to enjoy more games.

Bollig was not the only one that enjoyed the beloved event. Lower schoolers zoomed across from one station to the another with their hands full of prizes and eyes wide trying to figure out what station to go to next. 

“I love the Fall Fun Fair,” articulated fifth grader Jake Shore. “You get to win free prizes!”

The young children could not get enough. Fifth grader Henry Hilberg partook in the festivities from start to finish, enjoying the time with his friends and winning prizes to bring home later.  

“My favorite part of the fair was the cakewalk,” remarked Hilberg. “You have the chance to win a whole free cake.”

Each year the PA community looks forward to the Fall Fun Fair.

Mrs. Meghan Milovich, a parent and teacher at PA, concluded, “The Lower School students are not only here at PA to learn but to also develop relationships with other students outside of school and the Fall Fun Fair is the perfect opportunity for this to take place.”

Straight to State: Lions Tennis Places Third

The Lions Varsity Tennis Team processes out during the school send-off before the state tournament last week.

After a season full of many restrictions and cancellations last year due to COVID-19, the girls’ tennis team came back this year ready for success. This past week, the Lions competed among other tennis teams in their class and walked away with the third-place trophy for the Class A state tournament.

Bright and early on Monday, October 11, the team traveled to the Gustavus Adolphus campus for sections play. The girls got hyped up on the bus ride on the way down and got ready for a full day of tennis, walking away with a ticket to the state tournament.

Senior Captain Olivia Eck ‘22 added, “It was a long bus ride on the way to Gustavus and we were all tired because it was early in the morning, but we blared ‘Party in the USA’ through our speaker which got us pumped up and ready for the day.”

Father Michael McClellan blesses the tennis team at the send-off last week.

On Tuesday, October 26, after a fun send-off by the PA community complete with music from the band and student-lined hallways to cheer the girls on, the tennis team headed to InnerCity Tennis for the state tournament. The Lions won their first match against Crookston and moved on to the state semifinals where they fell to Litchfield, moving to the third-place match the following day. In the third-place match, they beat Fairmount, bringing home the third-place trophy.

One of the team’s varsity coaches, Alyssa Wilkins, added, “The success the team had in the state tournament was definitely a reflection of their hard work and dedication throughout the season; they worked hard during practices and they went out and fought hard during every match.”

With four seniors on the team who will be off to college in the fall, everyone wanted to make sure their last season was one that would be remembered. Wilkins reflected, “The seniors are such an awesome group of girls; we will miss so many things about them. They have shown so much leadership and their energy, positivity, and excitement for their team has set a great foundation for future seasons.”

Not only have they had a strong season with many wins and success in the state tournament, but they have also bonded off of the courts. With members of the team spanning ninth through twelfth grade, they don’t necessarily have connections outside of tennis, yet their relationships have strengthened throughout the season.

Grace Wikenheiser ‘22 reflected on the bonds created, “I will miss the moments both on the courts and off the courts with the team; I will forever cherish the friendships I have created with the team through playing tennis.”

Eck echoed Wikenheiser’s sentiment, “Our bond as a team transcends every circumstance we may encounter and I believe it’s what allowed us to be as successful as we are.”

Tables and Treats: Trunk or Treat With a Spin

“It was awesome!” These were the words of third grader Charlie Semsch when asked what he thought of this year’s Trunk or Treat. Many shared Semsch’s sentiments, despite last Thursday’s event looking slightly different from the previous year. 

Second graders Elory Otto (left) and Betty Stephens (right), are all smiles as they collect candy from the Upper Schoolers.

Last year, National Honor Society (NHS) members decorated themed trunks and handed out treats to lower school students, arguably having just as much fun as young lions. This year, seniors outside of NHS were also given the opportunity to participate.

Ms. Betsy Gregg, third grade teacher, shared “we like when we have any event between the two schools; it’s a good way to get the littles to feel like they are a part of the school as a whole.” 

When asked if her students were excited, Ms. Gregg immediately replied “Oh yes! It was a topic every single day this week!”

On the day of the planned festivities, the excitement leading up to the event was palpable, but a wave of fear came over the Lower and Upper School students when rain started on Thursday morning. 

However, with the help of PA’s beloved head custodian Mr. John Wagner (Scooby), NHS came up with a plan: in lieu of car trunks in the north parking lot, they set tables up inside, still allowing for the fun to commence. When the time came to set up, the Upper Schoolers excitedly began to decorate. Rylie Schonfelder ‘23, participated in Trunk or Treat for the first time this year, commented , “It was so fun to build our stand and see everyone else’s ideas come together.” 

Schoenfelder in action as the gumball machine, dispensing candy to Lower School students last Thursday.

Semsch and his classmate Humphrey Ombaso eagerly shared their favorite tables as “the gumball machine” and “the one with the guys dressed as leaves.” 

Schoenfelder was actually a part of the group that brought the “gum ball machine” to life. She was under the table, hidden by balloons, sticking her hand through the opening to hand the kids their candy.

Schoenfelder remarked, “My favorite part of the trunk or treat was handing out candy from the flap at the bottom of the ‘gum ball machine’ which made it so  the kids could only see my hand and it was fun to hear their reactions!”

Despite having to move the festivities inside, Trunk or Treat was a smashing success! The Upper Schoolers’ enthusiasm and dedication to the event brought joy to the little kids. 

Gregg noted, “It was cool to see how into it the High Schoolers were getting. Their genuine excitement made it even more fun for our students.” 

In the end, it was a joy for all who participated: teachers and kids of all ages. “Handing out candy, seeing all the lower schoolers in their costumes, and the hallway’s atmosphere transformed by all our themes was so fun. It was truly a great experience,” concluded Schoenfelder.