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Eighth grader off to a fast start

Cloquet's Kendra Kelleyis already gaining recognition as one of the top high school 100-meter sprinters in Minnesota. Last week, she traveled to St. Paul to prove it.

Elite race
Cloquet's Kendra Kelley, second from left, races against 18 other top girls high school sprinters in the state at Hamline University last week. Kelley, an eighth grader, took 11th place. Contributed Photo

Cloquet’s Kendra Kelleyis already gaining recognition as one of the top high school 100-meter sprinters in Minnesota. Last week, she traveled to St. Paul to prove it.

Competing in a special elite event at Hamline University, Kelley ran a personal record time of 12.76 seconds in an invitation-only meet including 18 of the top sprinters in the state.

The time was good for a 11th place finish in the field, but there’s one catch.

Kelley is “only” an eighth-grader.

“I started sprinting last year and I love it,” Kelley said. “I’m fortunate to have gotten off to such a good start.”

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Kelley runs the open 200 meters and on Cloquet’s 4x200 relay team in addition to the 100 meters. Coaches from around the state submitted the best times for their runners, and organizers of the Hamline event chose the top 18 to run in the Twin Cities.

For Kelley, sprinting is the only thing she ever wanted to do on a track.

“It’s quite fun for me,” Kelley said. “Sprinting is obviously fast-paced and it’s lots of fun to take part. I’ve always loved sprinting. I’m not really a long-distance girl at all!”

Kelley is quick to credit her teammates and coaches for their support. She runs the third leg in the 4x200 relay, which is anchored by Mikayla Baker.

“My teammates are very supportive of me and I’ve very lucky to have them,” Kelley said. “They are great role models.”

The sprinters on Tim Prosen’s team are coached by Jeff Leno.

“We brought Kendra up to our varsity squad last year as she was very easy to pick out while running with other middle school-aged kids,” Leno said. “It quickly became clear to me that Kendra possesses a high level of athleticism. Coaching Kendra has been a pleasure, not only has she added a lot of speed and depth to our team, but she is a great kid off the track and excels in the classroom.”

Kelley also had nothing but good things to say about her coach.

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“He’s taught me so much,” Kelley said of Leno, who ran track when he was a student at CHS. “He has helped improve me so much, with little things that really do count.”

As an eighth-grader, Kelley is still a work in progress in terms of her track prowess, but she’s well aware of that fact.

“There’s obviously a lot of room for improvement,” she said. “But I can achieve that.”

Kelley’s confidence may someday land her a spot in the state track meet, which is definitely a goal.

“Hamline was only my second outdoor meet of the season,” she said. “But I want to compete at State someday and with a lot of hard work, I hope to get there.”

Her coach is willing to bet she will get there soon.

“With Kendra's athletic abilities and her strong work ethic, I feel she is going to have a very successful career as a Cloquet track and field athlete,” Leno said. “I expect to see some very impressive things out of her in the near future.”

 

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Kelley reaches for the finish line
Kendra Kelley reaches for the finish line during the track meet Tuesday in Hermantown. Contributed Photo

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