Cross country: It runs in the Kromer familyWhen Hudson High School junior Ryan Kromer ran to a fourth-place finish in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships at Madison in late October his success was no surprise to coach Don Krupa.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
When Hudson High School junior Ryan Kromer ran to a fourth-place finish in the WIAA State Cross Country Championships at Madison in late October his success was no surprise to coach Don Krupa.
Krupa has grown used to runners with the last name of Kromer performing well over the course of his illustrious 43-year career as Hudson’s cross country coach and as assistant track coach.
It began with Ryan’s uncle Tom Kromer, who was a standout track and cross country performer early in Krupa’s career.
Krupa took over the cross country program in the fall of 1969, a year before the Kromer family relocated to Hudson from St. Paul.
As Ryan’s father, John Kromer, recalls, Tom had been a hockey player in St. Paul. Hudson High School didn’t yet offer the sport and a neighbor friend talked Tom into joining the cross country and track teams instead.
Tom went on to become an outstanding cross country runner and to set school records in the mile and two-mile runs in track.
The records held until John, six years younger than Tom, broke them as a high school sophomore.
John bettered his times in his junior and senior years, and his mile and two-mile records held for the next 20 years.
He also set course record after course record running on the cross country team.
John went on to run for the University of Minnesota cross country and track teams. He was the Big Ten champion in the steeplechase and made trips to the nationals with both the cross country and track teams.
He was a captain of both his high school and college cross country teams.
Meanwhile, John’s sister Deb went to the state high school track meet with the 1978 Hudson High School girls’ team, and John’s younger brother Ken made it to state with the 1983 cross country team.
John’s oldest son, Dan, was a member of the 2005 Hudson cross country team that won the Big Rivers Conference championship.
Dan went on to compete with the Minnesota State University-Mankato cross country and track teams. He graduated from the university last Saturday with a social studies teaching degree and hopes to coach track and cross country, too.
Dan did his student teaching at a Houston inner city school and will be returning there next year to be a substitute teacher and wait for a permanent position.
Krupa said he’ll make a good teacher and coach.
The coach said he knew there was potential for each Kromer who followed Tom to do well as a runner after witnessing what Tom did.
“As each one came along, they contributed their own specialty and continued the success of the Kromer family,” Krupa said. “They know how to compete. They see the joy and feel the excitement it takes to compete at any level they want to.”
The success doesn’t come automatically, John Kromer noted.
“You don’t get to the level he’s gotten to just because he’s a gifted runner from a family that has been blessed,” he said of his son Ryan. “He works really hard at it. That’s why you see the fruits of his labor. He is very dedicated to what he’s doing.”
Krupa agreed that being a good runner takes perseverance and dedication.
Often, there’s no one there to push you through the grinding training it takes to succeed, and there are few crowds to cheer your success, he said.
“You have to do it yourself.”
Ryan also was the Big Rivers Conference cross country champion this past season, and has been the sectional champ the past two seasons (as a sophomore and junior).
“That is a feat in itself,” Krupa said of the sectional championships.
And Ryan’s success last fall came after he was sidelined by a track injury in the spring, the coach noted.
“To come back and achieve what he did this year was outstanding,” Krupa said. “He had to rebuild himself from where he was after his injury and come a long ways. No one knows what he had to go through as an individual to get back to where he did this year.”
Krupa remembers Ryan’s father having that same drive.
The Kromers lived about five miles out of town when John was young. He would run to school for his morning workout and then participate in the team training in the afternoon.
In those days, the cross country team would frequently run to Willow River State Park and back to the high school for its workout.
“Probably not,” Krupa replied when asked if he pushes his runners as hard as he used to.
John said he remembered running with the upperclassmen as a freshman. Nowadays, the younger runners are brought along more slowly to prevent injuries.
“It’s probably smart. But I think they could work harder, too,” he said with a laugh.
John Kromer said he tried not to push his boys into running, or pressure them to achieve what he did.
His middle son, Joel, chose to stick with soccer and is now a member of the Minnesota State University-Moorhead men’s team.
Dan Kromer agreed that his dad didn’t set expectations for him as a runner, but said he did it to himself.
After Dustin Fier broke his dad’s mile and two-mile records in 2001, he felt a need to bring them back into the family, Dan said.
“That’s what changed me from soccer to running. I didn’t quite get it, so I probably put some pressure on Ryan to get running.”
John said he’s much more proud all three of his sons’ accomplishments than any of his own.
He also appreciates Krupa for the positive influence he has had on Hudson High School runners for the past 43 years.
“Don is very good about preaching short-term and long-term goals. When the kids try to do that, and they achieve some of those goals, they buy into being successful runners,” John said.
Krupa has been the Hudson High School cross country coach for all but two years of the program.
He was inducted into the Wisconsin Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in early 2010. At that time, he had guided the Raiders to 29 conference championships and 11 team sectional titles. He also had coached a host of individual conference champions and nine all-state performers. The list has grown since then.
Krupa retired from teaching math in 2007 but continues at the helm of the cross country program and as an assistant track coach.
“I’m still coaching because of a love for the sport. And I feel that, even at my age, I have something to give to the young people,” he said. “I just enjoy watching them accomplish great things.”
John Kromer and his wife, Jamie, own and operate The Spirit Seller liquor store in the River City Center in downtown Hudson.