Sprinting towards success


Used with permission from Mary Wineberg

Wineberg looks up to Wilma Rudulph, a fellow Olympic Athlete. Rudulph experienced some hardships but “didn’t let those determine her end goal”, something that Wineberg relates to.

Elena Brown, Managing Editor of Student Life

WHHS is a school that revolves around academics. However, that does not mean that athletics does not have the chance to shine. WHHS has had its fair share of successful athletes, including Mary Danner Wineberg, ‘98, an Olympic gold medalist in the 4×400 relay. 

Wineberg’s life started out rough. She was born in Brooklyn, New York where she was considered a ward of the state for a short time. Then, she was adopted by her grandmother and moved to Cincinnati.

“She [Wineberg’s grandmother] taught me about perseverance,” Wineberg said. “She taught me that people can tell you no in the world, but it’s about proving them wrong and it’s about believing in yourself and pushing for what you believe in and what you stand for.”

When Wineberg entered seventh grade at WHHS, she decided to join the track team. In the beginning, her mom, the name she called her grandmother, wasn’t the biggest supporter, but after enlisting the help of a friend’s mother, Wineberg was allowed to try out. 

“When she [Wineberg’s grandmother] was growing up in Jamaica, they walked miles and miles to go to school, sometimes barefoot. So for her, athletics wasn’t an option,” Wineberg said.

 At first, Wineberg didn’t realize how talented she was. As the years went on, she became more and more invested in the sport. 

“Once I got to ninth grade, I decided that I wasn’t going to play around anymore at practice,” Wineberg said. “I didn’t want to be the person who’s always goofing around, and I wanted my teammates to know that when we got to the state meet they could depend on me.”

Wineberg then attended UC. Afterward, she decided to focus on running and try to turn it into a professional career. In 2004, she was invited to train at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California.

“I picked up everything, took my car out there, and started a life for a year training for the Olympics. I put my all into training for the Olympics,” Wineberg said. “I was devastated that at the Olympic Trials in 2004, I did not make the games.”

However, even through her tears, Wineberg came to realize several important things. She realized that being an Olympian took sacrifice and dedication.

“I came back home in 2005. I was even hungrier than I was before,” Wineberg said.

Wineberg started to become even more serious. She trained diligently for four years and in 2008 placed second in the 400 meters at the Olympic Trials. 

“And from there I knew that I could accomplish anything, because the year before that in 2007, I was actually in the top eight in the world at the 400 meters,” Wineberg said. “I knew that the Olympic Games would be just a little bit bigger than the World Championships.”

Wineberg did just that. In the 4×400 relay race, she won gold along with her teammates.

“It felt amazing. It felt like literally I was on top of the world. Every four years when the Olympics come around I’ve had that same feeling,” Wineberg said. “And for me, it was an amazing feeling, standing not only with my friends that I had formed relationships with, but to know that these ladies will be with me for the rest of our lives. We make history and that history can’t be taken away.”

Now Wineberg is retired. She has kept busy though, to say the least. 

“I taught second grade for 11 years, I’ve always been very passionate about education and teaching our community and our kids,” Wineberg said.

Recently, Wineberg decided to run for a seat on the CPS school board, a district she attended all throughout her childhood.

“Last year I ran a campaign, and I ended up being the top vote-getter last November, when election time arose,” Wineberg said. “I was very excited and very happy that the people of Cincinnati decided to vote [for] me. I said to them that I promise I will do my best to be your voice and to speak up on the matters and concerns that you have and to do my best to make sure that the district is moving forward for all the children of CPS.”

Even though Wineberg’s time as a runner has ended, she will forever hold track and the Olympics in a special place in her heart.

“We often times have people try to call us former Olympians, and I always have to correct them,” Wineberg said. “Because once at Olympian always an Olympian, never former, never passed. This is something that lives with me for the rest of my life.”