October 30, 2012

Q&A with Senior Student-Athlete Chris Kelly

The old saying goes “nice guys finish last.” Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to Case Western Reserve University men’s cross country senior co-captain Chris Kelly.  

A successful student-athlete both on the course and in the classroom for the nationally-ranked Spartans, the Twinsburg, Ohio native continues to perform at a high level. This past weekend, Chris earned the second All-University Athletic Association finish of his career in western New York. He will also earn UAA All-Academic honors for the third-straight year later this fall. But even more than his successful numbers on and off the course, it is Chris’ leadership which is considered his greatest asset.

“Chris is one of the most upbeat student-athletes I have ever coached,” stated 12th-year Spartan Head Coach Kathy Lanese. “He can take any negative situation and transform it into something positive. His positive nature is not just evident on the course, it is present in the way he perceives life in general. He’s a statistics man and is constantly looking for ways that he and his team can improve. Speaking from the standpoint of a coach, that is an invaluable asset for a team to have as part of its makeup.”

Chris’ infectious attitude spreads from his daily life onto the course, where it is noticed most by his teammates.

“The most valuable lesson that Chris teaches the team every day is dedication to the sport,” said fellow senior co-captain Ethan Teare. “Chris takes no shortcuts and always puts in as much as he can. For a team pushing to be in the national spotlight, that approach is the most that any teammate could hope to witness.”

In this edition of Spartan Spotlight, Chris talks about his plans following graduation, his goals for the remainder of his senior year and his additional activities on and off campus.  

What are your plans following graduation? What career path do you hope to follow as a material science and engineering major?

“I plan to get a job working in industry, preferably involving manufacturing. I can see myself even working in a steel mill. I think that would be a cool experience. Thinking about where I want to go, I would like something where I could either stay in Cleveland or something far away like Europe or the west coast. I want to travel and see the world and getting a job far from here would be a great way to do that. But, I've also got many friends in the Cleveland area, and my family is here, so I'd be comfortable staying here as well.”

What factors led to you attending Case Western Reserve University?

“When I started looking at schools during my junior year of high school, I really didn't have any idea what I wanted to major in. So, I basically cast a wide net and looked at a lot of different schools. I came across Case late in my process. But, once I applied I was pretty sure I wanted to come here. It fit well for me. The easiness of switching majors definitely drew me in, along with the strength in science, engineering and technology. By that point, I was pretty sure I wanted to go into a field in that area.”

How did you become involved in cross country growing up? Do you have any role models that molded your love for the sport or any former or current athletes you look up to now?

“For as long as I can remember, my dad has run for fun, so growing up I would always go watch him compete at races. At some of the bigger races, there would be kids’ fun runs so those were my first experiences with "racing." I think my first one I got so scared of the starting gun I just ran over to my mom and cried. As I got older, I graduated to longer races and sometimes even competed with my dad. During those times I also played recreational soccer. But after fifth grade, we moved and by the time we were settled, it was too late to sign up for soccer. So, when it came time to choose school sports at the end of sixth grade, I didn't know anyone on the soccer team so I signed up for cross country instead. In terms of role models, I've always looked up to my dad. He's the reason I originally got into the sport and the one who has always encouraged me to stick with it even when it gets tough.”

To what do you attribute your early success this year as well as your successes thus far for your career?

“Learning to relax, being consistent and staying healthy are definitely the biggest pillars of success in distance running. In high school, I took a very hardline approach to working out and would kill myself week after week in workouts. It wasn't until I came to Case that I learned the value of each day’s effort. Some days it's better to take things easier so that when it really counts in races you can bring your best effort instead of being tired from workouts.”

What are your personal goals heading into your final few months in a Spartan uniform?

“The number one goal is to qualify for nationals as a team. It has been four years since the team made it to the dance, and we really want to be the group that gets back there. We feel like we have a really good team this year and we have a great shot. Personally, any way I can help accomplish those team goals would be awesome.”

What tidbits of knowledge, information and advice that were given to you as a freshman can you now share with the younger guys on the team?

“Coming in as a freshman, having seniors on the team definitely helped with the transition. Elaine Simpson and Kurt Gilbert really helped me particularly when I was young. They taught me how to balance both my running and school life, and I was able to draw on their years of experience to help me make my own decisions about things. Ethan Teare and I have really been stressing taking things in stride with the young guys. We try to keep everyone under control so everyone is running at their best at the end of the season.”

What will you do with all of the “free time” you will have after graduation? Will you compete in any races (i.e. marathons, 5K and 10Ks, etc)?

“I definitely will continue running after graduating. I don't know if I'll ever be quite as serious about it as I am now, but I definitely will still compete. I want to run a decent marathon, so I'll probably train for one after I graduate. But that will be after I take some down time away competition. My dad and I have kind of a silly bet that we want to run the 125th Boston Marathon together, so that is definitely on the calendar.”

What other groups or organizations do you participate in?

“I just recently became involved with the Cleveland Public Schools Connection (a group that runs an after school program once a week for kids). And, I am the secretary of the undergraduate materials society. It’s a good mix of stuff that keeps me balanced between running and school work.”

Note: “Spartan Spotlight” is a bi-weekly to monthly series that highlights a Case Western Reserve University student-athlete and his/her exploits on and off the playing field. The series is meant to provide an inside look at the unique backgrounds of Spartan student-athletes and show what it takes to succeed athletically and academically at one of the nation’s premier research institutions.