Meet Winter Vinecki: Breaking Through the Age Barrier

Winter Vinecki accepting her Annika Inspiration Award

Today I would like to introduce you to Winter Vinecki.

Winter is the founder of Team Winter, a non-profit organization committed to fighting prostate cancer and spreading global awareness of the disease.  Team Winter has raised over $400,000 toward the cause and has over 200 athletes on its fundraising team.

Winter is a two-time national champion triathlete.

One of her current personal goals is to set a world record of being the youngest person to run a marathon on every continent.  She has run 2 of the marathons this year and has 5 to go before the end of 2013.

Winter also strives to make the 2018 Winter Olympics.  She is now training on an elite development team of aerial skiers. She frequently speaks at schools and groups around the country about the childhood obesity epidemic.

She publishes a monthly health and wellness newsletter with recipes, nutritional tips and training tips.

She won the Annika Inspiration Award in 2011, an honor reserved for women who demonstrate athleticism, dedication, leadership and the ability to inspire others.

She is a highly intelligent and articulate young woman.

She turned 14 years old a few days ago.

Winter hanging with Maasai tribesmen in Kenya

Want to hear more?  So did I after I learned a bit about her!

After I published my blog post on how far is too far for young runners, I contacted Team Winter and asked them if they would be willing to tell us more about Team Winter and Winter’s personal accomplishments.  Fortunately for our Salty readers, Winter and her team graciously worked interviews with me into their busy schedules.

And the interviews did not disappoint.  Winter and her close-knit family are doing great things.  Get used to hearing the names Team Winter and Winter Vinecki – because this girl is going places!

To share Winter’s inspiring story and goals, I am writing a short series of posts outlining what inspires this young girl and what allows her to be so successful, well balanced and happy.

Today, we’ll start with the beginning: how she got started and how Team Winter was born.  Then we will explore her goal of running 7 marathons in 7 continents before she turns 15 – all while also working with an elite development team for aerial skiers and maintaining a near-4.0 GPA in a prestigious online high school program.  Finally, we’ll talk with her mom and her coach about how a kid like this can train at such an elite level while still being a kid.

So pull up a chair and learn a bit about this amazing young woman and the things she is doing.

The Start

Winter began participating in triathlons when she was 5 years old.  Her uncle was an avid triathlete and convinced her family to come on out and try it.  At one of them, Winter saw that a kids’ tri was offered and she wanted in!  She did it and loved it.  Soon her family was having fun and participating in tris and road races on the weekends in the family RV almost every weekend.

Fast forward a couple of years.  At age 8, Winter did her first 10k run in Clearwater, Florida.  As part of the race, Winter raised money to support the fight against childhood obesity.  She learned from that event that she loved distance running.  She also relished in the fact that she was a top fundraiser at the event and was proud to not only race –  but to give back.  By age 9, Winter participated in her first Olympic Distance triathlon.  During most of those races, she competed with her mom right by her side.

As Winter’s interest in endurance racing grew, Winter also started making plans with her family to coordinate her racing with fundraising.  The concept of Team Winter was born.

Team Winter is Born.

Michael Vinecki

Team Winter was started as an organization to fight childhood obesity. However, in May 2008, Winter and her family experienced personal hardship that most of us could not imagine.  On his 40th birthday, Winter’s dad Michael, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of prostate cancer.  His prognosis was grim, but Michael refused to give up and did everything he could to fight the cancer.  Winter and her family took a card from his deck and also used this life-altering experience to give their all to the fight against prostate cancer.  Winter and her family decided then and there that the focus of Team Winter would be on funding prostate cancer research and raising prostate cancer awareness globally.

After a hard fight, Winter’s dad, Michael, tragically lost his battle with prostate cancer in 2009 – only 10 months after his diagnosis.  But the  Vinecki family’s determination did not and has not waned.  To the contrary, Winter, her mom Dawn, and her 3 brothers, Yukon, Magnum and Ruger, work tirelessly to promote prostate cancer awareness.

One in six men are diagnosed with prostate cancer, yet it is a relatively unknown disease.  So Team Winter is determined to bring awareness to the blue ribbon for prostate cancer and to promote research to end this awful disease.

Winter’s mom, Dawn, is a full time ob/gyn physician and also runs Team Winter.  Winter’s 15 year old brother, Yukon, is fully engaged in Team Winter and is the “genius” web site designer Winter gushes about.  Winter’s younger brothers, Magnum and Ruger are also heavily involved in the mission and help fill orders for Team Winter gear and support their sister.

It is a family affair that is more than 3 years in the making and they are not thinking small.  Winter wants to see Team Winter to grow as large and well known as the Susan G. Komen foundation and LiveStrong.

This was Michael’s first triathlon bike that he bought only months before he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He had hopes of doing his first triathlon but only got 100 miles on his bike when he was given the diagnosis of prostate cancer. In, 2009, Michael’s bike was sold to buy Winter a triathlon bike. This Christmas, Santa returned Michael’s bike to it’s rightful owner, the Vinecki children.

In fact, Winter was thrilled to meet Lance Armstrong of LiveStrong in May 2012.  Despite all the controversy with Lance Armstrong, Winter views him as a real hero for all of the work he has done to fight cancer.  Like Lance, Winter is working hard to raise awareness  and to make a big difference in the fight against cancer.  Her hard work is paying off and both Winter and Team Winter are gaining more and more recognition for their work in the fight against cancer.

One way she is doing this is through her amazing athletic goals and accomplishments.  In our next post on Winter, we will discuss her big goals and the training she is doing to reach them.  Stay tuned….

In the meantime, check out the moving video below for more of her story and follow Team Winter and Winter on Facebook.  You can also check out the brand new web site her brothers and mom created for her here:

Mindi is a serial marathoner. She is a private practice attorney, wife and mom of two awesome (and super fast) boys, ages 12 and 14. She coaches Girls on the Run and is a big advocate of youth running.

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  1. Thank you for telling Winter’s story! I had the unique pleasure of meeting Winter at the Eugene Marathon in May. It all started simply enough; I was standing in the starting area, preparing to pace the 3:45 group for Clif Bar, when I overheard a female spectator say to a young girl standing near me, “just stay with him.” Another runner started talking to the young girl, and as I listened, I got a quick overview of Team Winter and her 7-Marathons-on-7-Continents goal. Turns out, the spectator was her mom Dawn, and of course, the young girl was Winter! I learned quite a bit more about Winter during our run together, and 3:45 and a few seconds later, she finished Marathon #1!

    I can’t wait to read more of her story!

    Darris Blackford

  2. Newton is a proud supporter of Team Winter and prostate cancer fundraising. I was happy to hear that you had the chance to interview her, and I can’t wait to hear more. She seems so grounded and mature for being just 14, and I will be following her for the next several years. Great story, and thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Maybe you’ll get a chance to work with her some! I agree that she sounds very grounded and mature. I think it also helps that her family is so close and so supportive of her. They don’t seem to push her – she is a self-starter and they give her all the tools and support to make things happen.

  3. We applaud Winter for breaking down the age barrier. We agree that not all kids should be running marathons, but she certainly is proving that some kids can do them very well. Keep up the good work. As a proud father myself, I am certain that her father is very proud too!