Finn Dawg preview

Grace Murphy, features writer

As Maya Pritchard, senior and one of the girls’ cross country captains, runs the hills and grassy path of Kirkwood Park, she passes the crowds of people cheering. She manages to pass the girls in front of her, making her last race her best race. She finishes the race feeling accomplished, wiping the sweat off her face and saying good job to her other teammates running through the finish. As the girls’ cross country team completes their season, they prepare for their last race, Finn Dawg. Hoping to make their last race a great one.

The Finn Dawg race started as the Charlie Finch race in 1977, then became the Kirkwood-Finch race, and finally the Kirkwood Invite. The Finn Dawg meet takes place at their home course, Kirkwood Park, which is growing each year. KHS girls’ cross country invites six to eight cross country teams around the St. Louis area to participate, along with TinySuperheroes and the elementary schools around Kirkwood. The race is named after Ken Finnerty, coach of the girls’ cross country team and a long time KHS guidance counselor, who is passionate about his job and the sport of cross country.

“What is special about the name [of the race] is what is special about Ken Finnerty,” Gina Woodard, girls’ cross country coach, said. “He embodies everything that I think a lot of [what] people aspire to be. He is kind-hearted, he is as smart as they come and he is knowledgeable.”

Making the race special along with the name is TinySuperheroes. TinySuperheroes is a cape company with a mission to empower extraordinary kids as they overcome illness or disability. They paired up with girls’ cross country last fall and were able to run their own race through the finish line at the Finn Dawg race last year. Robyn Rosenberger, TinySuperheroes founder, ran girls’ cross country in 2000 and 2001 for Coach Finnerty at KHS.

Having the TinySuperheroes come to the meet last year was such an eye-opening experience”

— Maya Pritchard

“The meet last year was amazing,” Rosenberger said. “We didn’t have a really big turnout but it ended up being really special, and it was an experience that [the families] still talk to me about.

Woodard and Rosenberger said they met again this summer to plan something bigger for the TinySuperheroes coming to the meet this year on Oct. 11. The hope is still to have the Bubble Bus and food trucks. The five Kirkwood elementary schools plus KECC will be invited.

Pritchard, has ran in all of the Finn Dawg meets in the past. According to Pritchard, all the girls are excited to run the Finn Dawg meet because it is their last meet of the season. They all know they have worked to get to this point and Woodard said, seeing the TinySuperheroes was very special for everyone, especially for the athletes from the other schools.

“[Having the TinySuperheroes come to the meet last year] was such an eye-opening experience,” Pritchard said. “It was so beautiful to watch their faces when they [crossed] the finish line because that is something they probably don’t get to do very often.”

According to Rosenberger, the most important part about TinySuperheroes is feeling confident about yourself and feeling good. That is what every girl on cross country feels after finishing their race, they feel accomplished, said Pritchard.

“It was a day to not think about yourself, even if you are very nervous or don’t know if you will have a personal record,” Woodard said. “Being able to invite the extraordinary kids from TinySuperheroes to the meet is who we should be thinking about. This is what makes the race so unique and special.”