Mathews grad now Windy City runner

The wind blows across as he runs. Waves pound into the nearby rocks. The paved path of Lakefront Trail in Chicago gives runners a scenic view of Lake Michigan.

It’s the training path for the Loyola University cross country team, one which Mathews High School graduate Kenny Wallace takes advantage of quite frequently.

“It’s beautiful scenery for running every day,” Wallace said.

The former Mustangs standout distance runner had to get used to the college training which is much more involved than high school.

Wallace quickly made the adjustment prior to his sophomore season, making the top three in cross country and reaching the Missouri Valley Conference final in the 1500-meter run in track and field.

He’ll looking to be the Ramblers No. 1 or 2 runner in cross country this coming school year, along with making as many all-conference teams as he can.

Wallace, who is heading into his junior year at Loyola, wants to be a leader in Chicago as well as role model back home.

“I want people back at Mathews be able to look at me,” he said. “If he can do it, why not I?”

Wallace took to the pavement on July 4, but this time closer to home at the Stars and Stripes 5K in Howland — his first ever 5K road race.

He saw the field and thought he’d have a chance. Wallace paced experienced road racer and Maplewood High School graduate Craig Rupe and eventually won.

It was one of the rare times his family has seen him run since his days at Mathews.

“They got to see me out there, which is kind of cool,” Wallace said.

The distance running community is a tight-knit group, usually seeing one another in area road races after graduation. It’s like an informal class reunion.

The 2017 Mathews graduate was unsure of his social future. How was he going to meet new people? Would he fit into the Ramblers’ athletic community? Would he be lonely? It was a resounding no to all the queries.

The first day he was at the cross country house he met 20 new friends, all welcoming him to Loyola. Wallace now becomes the welcoming figure to newcomers.

He recently took a trip to Europe with a friend from Montreal, Canada. They went to Greece to meet another teammate who lives in Athens.

“I’m literally meeting friends all over the world running,” Wallace said. “This is pretty cool.”

His aunt and uncle live in Chicago, but he ends up exploring the city when he doesn’t have a meet — finding ethnic communities or viewing newfound sights.

It’s one of the many reasons why Loyola is home for the Mathews standout.

“Definitely different than being in rural northeast Ohio, which is what I wanted,” Wallace said. “I wanted a change of scenery. It makes you appreciate home a little more, too.”