Athlete of the year: Danny Kilrea ‘18

Greta Markey, Managing Editor

A lot of people want to know what secret formula creates an athlete that qualified to run in and subsequently placed third in the Footlocker National Cross Country Meet, former assistant cross country coach Tom Stukel said. But for Danny Kilrea ‘18 there is no secret ingredient. There is just hard work, complete dedication to the sport and a undying love for running.

Kilrea began running Cross Country at Park Junior High School and has been running for LT’s Cross Country and Track programs for the entirety of his four years at LT. In these years, he has achieved times of 14:02 for 3 miles, 8:56 for 2 miles and 4:11 for 1 mile. He has also placed third at Footlocker National meet, 5th at Nike Cross Nationals, 4th at Great Edinburgh International XC Challenge–the 1st American finisher–and is an IL 3A Cross Country State Champ.

“It didn’t take long into his freshman year to see the determination [Kilrea] had in the late stages of races,” Cross Country and Track Head Coach Michael Danner said. “He would always be all in competing, whereas some kids aren’t able to bring their best at every race. He has proven himself to be one of the most consistent high level runners in this program, state and even the nation. He’s been in contention in every race he’s run.”

One of the greatest assets Kilrea has brought to the team is that through all of his success, he has never forgotten the team aspect, Danner said. He knows that the same rules and expectations of the team also apply to him.

“My team is a great group of guys that are all very hardworking and goal-oriented,” Kilrea said. “Every guy that has cycled through during these past four years on varsity has taught me something new, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I think that the team aspect of the sport is something that not a lot of people know about, but is something I’m very grateful for”

As Kilrea has gotten older, he has always remained respectful of his teammates and appreciated what they have to teach him, Stukel said. He is constantly in learning mode, and now as the leader of the group, he understands that his teammates are watching him and have lessons to learn from him.

“I know that I, and most of the other guys on the team, have all grown to their full potential because they’ve had a role model and teammate like Danny,” teammate Charlie Harders ‘18 said. “I think that for the next few years, LT will continue to have a very successful program, and a big part of that is because of the example Danny set.”

Danny will be continuing his cross country and track career on The University of Notre Dame’s team next year. Among his future teammates will also be former teammate Vincent Zona ‘17, who also runs for Notre Dame.

“I was ecstatic when Danny told me he had chosen Notre Dame,” Zona said. “As much as we like each other as friends and are excited to be teammates again, I knew that the only way Danny would choose Notre Dame was if he felt he could make it his own experience and not just be part of my experience. In the end, I think he chose the place that he felt the most welcomed and the place where he could grow the most as a person, student, and athlete.”

Along with practicing with the team and preparing for the new rigor of collegiate athletics, Kilrea puts weight and focus on every aspect of his life to be the best athlete he can be, Stukel said, citing Kilrea’s calculated sleeping schedule, studying habits and diet.

“I’ve learned that the best way to get better is by dedicating yourself to the sport and making it a lifestyle,” he said. “If you’re going to try to be great at something, it’s best to go all in.”

This determination is not lost on his coaches and teammates.

“Danny is an extreme grinder,” Zona said. “He is always doing something to make himself better, and this is what distinguishes him as an athlete. Whether it is adding on that extra half mile to hit his weekly goal or grinding through workouts in the extreme heat, rain, wind or mud, he pushes himself more than anyone else.”