Indoor track’s Emma Kelley: The undefeated triplet leading Division III
Sophomore Emma Kelley has not lost this season, winning eight consecutive track heats in races ranging from 400 to 800 meters. She has set a personal record at the last meets, running 2:10 in her season opener in the 800 meter. She currently leads Division III in the 800 and is third in the 400. The triplet sat down with Student Life to discuss her winning streak, her introduction to track and watching Euphoria.
This interview has been edited slightly for length and clarity.
SL: First, tell me about your introduction to running. Did you start with another sport, or did you always prioritize track?
EK: So I started running freshman year of high school with cross country. I was really not very good at it at all — I was actually pretty bad. But then I got better throughout the season, and then in track in the spring, I found out that I was actually pretty good at it. It became my main sport, and I just ran cross country to stay in shape throughout high school.
SL: So what made WashU stand out, out of the places you looked at?
EK: I live in St. Louis, and I didn’t think that I wanted to stay here. But I reached out to the head coach, and once I realized that I could run here, I got a bit more interested. I went on a visit, and I realized that I actually really liked it. I decided that if I got in, I might go here!
SL: Talk to me about your first track season — WashU just has such a strong mid-distance contingent right now. So talk to me about how helpful it is to have your teammates pushing you along in practice.
EK: Yeah, it’s actually been really great because in high school, I was our only varsity 800 meter runner. So coming here and being with two other girls all of last season, we practically always went 1-2-3 in every race. It was great to be able to push each other in workouts and then in meets; one of us would be first one week, and then the other would be first the next. That was fun, just switching back and forth, and definitely helpful.
SL: And you got to attend your first NCAA Outdoor Nationals, where you competed in the 800 and 4×400 relay. So how was that experience for you?
EK: It was definitely very exciting. I had already run at that track in high school for my club team in the summer, and I wasn’t very happy with that performance there, so it was definitely nice to be able to go again. It was a super exciting experience, and I was definitely very nervous for my first college nationals. It was definitely a good learning experience. It didn’t go exactly how we’d hoped — we were super close in the 4×400 and similarly in the 800, but we were also definitely excited, learned a lot, and can apply it to this season next year.
SL: So you don’t run cross country in the fall. What does the fall look like for you in terms of training?
EK: We do fall training, and basically it looks very similar to our training right now except less intense. We’ll do Saturday morning workouts, which are usually our hardest ones and kick our butts. Everyone comes in at different stages from summer, so it’s also getting used to a new team. We practice five, six days a week, so similar to what we’re doing now, it’s just less intense.
SL: Moving from that to the indoor season, you haven’t lost a race so far, running to [personal records] in the last two weeks. So what’s changed this season for you?
EK: Definitely a huge thing is that last year we didn’t really get an indoor season, and there aren’t really any indoor tracks around St. Louis, so I didn’t have a high school indoor season ever. One of the biggest things is that over the summer, I trained really hard. Over the breaks too, I was definitely more serious. And then last year, we got put on pause a lot because of COVID. One person would get COVID, and then we had to pause the whole team for a couple days, so it was definitely hard to go back and forth between practicing with the team versus having to practice on your own. This year, we’ve just had more consistent training, and being able to race this winter definitely helped. I think it’ll also help a lot for outdoors, but yeah, I was not expecting to run 2:10 in my opener — that’s definitely really exciting.
SL: Do you have a favorite workout, or does it rotate depending on how you’re feeling each week?
EK: It rotates; we definitely have a lot of ones that repeat every so often. They’re all really good workouts, but in the moment, they don’t feel so great. One of my favorites is probably when our coach does ones simulating our race, like the 800 but in little parts. That lets us run on the numbers, which means keeping our pace every 50 meters and things like that. That’s definitely really helpful to put us in a racing perspective and just be able to be confident in running our race and not getting distracted. Some people take it out way too fast; at Nationals last year, a girl was in my heat in the 800, and she was crazy fast. She just took it out slow because she knew she could just do whatever to win that heat to make it to the final, so that messed with our pacing because I looked next to me and I thought, ‘I’m probably going too fast.’ It ended up being a little off with the pacing, so these types of workouts help a lot and make us more confident.
SL: And off the track, what are you majoring in right now?
EK: I’m majoring in psych, and then I am on the pre-physical-therapy track, which technically isn’t an official thing, but I’m taking all the classes required for PT school.
SL: What about outside of all that, in your limited free time — are you watching any fun TV shows right now?
EK: Yeah, I’m rewatching Gilmore Girls right now.
SL: Amazing. Are you on the Euphoria train?
EK: Yes — I’m definitely watching the episode that is coming out tonight.
SL: So am I. Any fun facts that your teammates might not know about you?
EK: This is my cop-out, and I think my teammates do know at this point, but I’m a triplet. One of them ran in high school; she ran cross country with me and then she did high jump.
SL: My last question for you is one we ask in all of our Athlete of the Week interviews. Would you rather have fish for hands or adopt a child every time you hear Bohemian Rhapsody?
EK: Probably adopt a child — I don’t know though, because it’s not great either way.
StudLife’s Athlete of the Week ‘Would You Rather Tracker?’: Bohemian Rhapsody: 5– Fish: 1
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