Minneapolis South High athletes inspired by track coach fighting cancer

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After 12 years of coaching track and cross country at Minneapolis South High School, almost no one expected Coach Mark Gross to return for his 13th season. 

“I think him being around these kids is the best thing for him to be honest,” said Matt Lawrence, a coach and Gross’ stepson. “He’s been in the sport for so long and this is what he loves.”  

Just a few weeks ago, Gross underwent brain surgery. He had fallen and hit his head. Doctors discovered hemorrhaging and something much worse; the stage three kidney cancer he had been fighting since August of 2016 had spread to his brain. 

“They discovered a 15.5 centimeter tumor over my right kidney,” said Gross. “They had to take my right kidney out and the tumor out. And when they did that they discovered more cancer in there.”

As Gross waits for what his next round of chemotherapy and added radiation will look like, being back on the sidelines is a much-needed distraction.

“Something like this overwhelms you, you coach all these people and know all these people, until something like this happens - you get overwhelmed,” said Gross.

Regularly inspired by his athletes at state and national meets, Gross’ career also includes leading the University of Minnesota Running Club and cheering on Hassan Mead, who took what he learned from Gross and eventually went on to compete in the 2016 Olympics. These days it's the athletes doing the cheering. 

“He’s pushing himself to get back and I think that’s inspirational, especially for the rookies this year to see how much he’s putting in to better himself,” said Emma Schluter, a senior on the track team. “And knowing if he’s doing that to back to us, how much we should be putting in for ourselves and the team.”

“You got to practice what you preach and I strongly believe I’m going to beat this,” said Gross.