Running isn't genetically in Andrew Kearney's blood, but it's always been a big part of his life.
Adopted at birth by Martha and Steve Kearney of Chesterton, the Trojans senior has been around cross country from his days in diapers.
"It would be sort of amazing if I didn't run," Andrew said. "My first memory of being at a meet was in Bloomington for state. My dad was running and I was on his shoulders."
You can't think of running in Chesterton, if not the entire region, without thinking of Steve Kearney. A runner for nearly 50 years, he has coached at the club and high school levels since the early '70s. Kearney currently coaches Chesterton's girls track team and the Calumet Region Striders youth program, among other related endeavors.
"It's good to establish your own identity, but I appreciate having a name that's synonymous with cross country in the area, especially Chesterton," Andrew said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. It's amazing the amount that he knows. I admire how he's still so active in it. Just knowing how much he loves it is an inspiration to me."
Though he doesn't share his dad's DNA, Andrew's very much like Steve. In addition to running, he is gifted academically, including in math, which his dad teaches.
"It's eerily similar," Trojans coach Tim Ray said. "When I was first coaching, Andrew was 3 or 4, following his dad around. He just naturally fell in love with the sport. He has the same passion his dad does. I don't think he's missed a day in about two years, 600-some consecutive days."
Andrew began running when he was 9 years old, while playing other sports. When he got to high school, there was no pressure from home to do cross country.
"He told me it was my decision, but it really wasn't a difficult decision," Andrew said. "He knew I loved cross country. In every sense, he's like my coach, even though he's not officially. A lot of dinner table conversations involve running."
Ray wondered how the parent-coach dynamic would work when Andrew became part of the team. Not only has it never been an issue, it's proven to be an asset.
"It's really worked well," Ray said. "Steve and I, our philosophy tends to be the same. In order to get better, you've got to continually run. It's pretty cut and dried. Steve's at meets, and he knows (Andrew) better than we do, so we'll ask him if he sees something we didn't. There are little things he'll point out that are quite helpful."
State berths are the norm at Chesterton, but it's no given this year on a roster that's largely unproven beyond Kearney and Kevin Kenney. Despite the challenge, his goal is to end his prep career in Terre Haute.
"Obviously, inexperience is one of the cons, but the desire to improve is the same as with the experienced runners," Kearney said. "We've definitely evolved as a team. I think we'll be ready when we need to be."
Several years ago, Ray started the 'Stride On' award as a tribute to Steve Kearney and his well-known slogan. The honor goes to the Chesterton runner who exemplifies his love for the sport. This year's winner could live in Kearney's house.
"It'll be interesting to see who gets it," Ray said, smiling. "Andrew's a very driven kid. When you give him something to achieve, he's really committed. He wants to do well."