Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

Letters to the Editor

February 24, 2011

Ode to Mike Cunningham

Knoxville —  

Dear Editor,

Knoxville recently inducted Mike Cunningham into the Knoxville High School Athletic Hall of Fame. While I'm not certain anybody was around
who may remember his athletic conquests as a prep player, his contributions as a coach and citizen are unquestioned. I had the
pleasure of running for Mike my Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, Senior, and Senior years. I'm not going to lie to you. Running is hard
work. Running fast is even harder. Training to run sprint faster than everybody else on meet day usually means a little bit of puking. The
hardest working and hence, fastest runners usually puked a lot.
Despite a well-fertilized infield, Mike made coaching track seem easy. "Run fast, turn left" seemed to be his mantra. Unfortunately, it's not
quite that simple. Sometimes there are problem children.
I was a typical red-blooded All-American teenager and got into my share of trouble. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and eventually ran away from my parent's home. I continued going to school
but was clearly failing all school activities. I was passing "drinking beer in a cornfield" and "smoking stuff you shouldn't be smoking'.
Mike and Bette invited me into their home even though they weren't quite finished raising their own children. Long story longer, I pulled my grades up, stopped hanging out with that crowd, ran track with the
Panthers, and graduated that spring. Then I joined the USMC for a 5 year stint just in time for the first Gulf skirmish. It was almost
"The Blind Side' 20 years before Michael Oher except for the NFL somehow overlooked my football prowess - their loss.
I've since reconciled with my parents who are alive, healthy and active in the lives of their grandchildren in KC. For each person
there comes a point at which life altering choices are required.
Sometimes there are people who help you with those decisions. As a young man, I decided that I wasn't going to spend my adult years
bouncing around Iowa prisons which was quickly becoming a likelihood. Mike and Bette were instrumental in helping me realize that goal.
Our town has hundreds of first quality people. None rate higher on my list than Mike and Bette Cunningham. Thanks for helping to shape boys
into young men and for going above and beyond for me. Congratulations on your well-deserved induction into the KHS Athletic HOF.


With Love,

Phil Kloster
Husband, Father, Marine Veteran, Graduate, Proud Product of Knoxville, Iowa
Greenwood, MO

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