Students praise God through athletics Print
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Oct. 03, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

MADISON -- "If you're doing something and you're not doing it for God's glory, it's really empty."

Those words by St. Ambrose Academy senior cross country runner Heather Hineline may illustrate an edge some area student athletes have on their competition.

The Madison-based Catholic school not only provides a classical education, it also gives an opportunity for its middle and high school students to play sports.

Cross country

In the fall, there are five cross country teams: boys and girls junior high, girls junior varsity, boys junior varsity, girls varsity, and boys varsity.

The runners have been having a very successful season. In the recent River Valley Invitational in Spring Green, the high schoolers all set personal bests and the junior high runners finished their first 3K race of the year.

Team captains and seniors Hineline and Alexandra Neumaier finished seventh and 16th respectively.

It’s sort of comeback for them, as they both were challenged with injuries last year. Both girls worked through the injuries and ran at sectionals last year, helping the team to a seventh place finish.

For Hineline, the race was a spiritual journey.

On the day of the race, Hineline said, "I gave it to Our Lady and said 'take whatever you want with this' and I ran the race with a limp. I actually thought about dropping out of the race halfway through because I was in so much pain."

To her surprise, her name was called off as a qualifier to state, the first-ever from the school.

"I remember tears in my eyes that were tears of sorrow turned to tears of joy and I looked up at the sky and said 'thank you, Jesus, thank you so much' even though I could barely walk," said Hineline, thinking back on the day.

The teams practice in the varying terrain around the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison, which has a variety of flat surfaces and hilly areas.

Like the races, practices are more than just physical preparation.

"We pray before we start practice and we leave after practice," said Neumaier. "Prayer is very in line with everything; it just goes right with it."

"The fact that we have the gift of running and praying through our races helps us get through our races," said Hineline. "How Our Lady helps us, it's really amazing. I don't think I would run if I wasn't on a Catholic cross country team."

For boys team captain sophomore Stephen Carey, running also helps him grow in his faith.

"My faith serves both as a motivation and as a source of strength because it's not always easy in a race when you're running as hard as you can to keep on running, and that is one place where faith really helps," said Carey.

Eight-man football

Eight St. Ambrose students also participate in a cooperative eight-man football team along with Abundant Life Christian School and Madison County Day School.

A difference between eight-man football and the more common 11-man football is there are fewer linemen wide receivers or defense backs. The field is also 80 yards long, instead of 100 yards.

Last year, the team won its conference and qualified for the 2012 WIAA Eight-Player Football Jamboree.

The team faces some new challenges as it hopes to make it back there this year.

"We have small guys, we have a lot of freshmen, pretty inexperienced," said junior quarterback Clint Keaveny. "They've all focused, worked hard to come together as a team and we’re doing well now," he added.

The team began conference play this year with a comeback win against Oakfield. Down 14 to 0 at halftime, the Challengers rallied to win 20 to 14.

As the team prepared for its next game against Valley Christian School, their Thursday practice was halted because of severe weather, but that didn't mean the day's work was done.

The players headed inside to look at film (actually a YouTube video) of the game.

While there were plenty of compliments on the win, there were also many opportunities for coach Mark Martinez and his assistants to point out areas for improvement.

The players face personal challenges, and they’re not shy about using their faith to handle them.

“I've got to pray before every play and make sure everyone does the right thing and I do the right thing and we have to have faith that our guy's not going to get injured," said senior running back and captain Josh Santiago. "Sometimes it doesn't go that way, but everything happens for a reason."

With the Challengers meeting their challenges head-on, things look bright for the future.

"We’'ve really come together as a team this season; we’ve been working hard all summer," said Keaveny. "We've had a pretty good season and I think we're only going to get better from here."

For more information on St. Ambrose Academy athletics, visit


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