Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Road to State: Kellianne Connolly

The saying goes that the sum is not greater than its parts and that could not fit any better than for the 2011 Valley Christian Cross Country team. It took a complete team effort to qualify for the State Championships in the competitive Division III race, none more clutch than the courageous performance of Kellianne Connolly.

After a disappointing end to the 2010 season and their streak of four straight appearances at the State Championship was broken it was hard not to take it personally. None took it more personal than Kellianne Connolly. She had been hovering at 21 minutes and had been since her freshman year when she broke through at the State Championships running 21:26 for the 5k course. She worked hard over the summer and came into her sophomore year with an outstanding 21:03 on the Toro Park course to open the season at the Early Bird Invitational. So the sting of having a bad race at CCS was tough to take.

There was no question what the goal was coming into the season, to get back to the State Meet. But for Connolly the frustrations weren’t over. While she upped the mileage and dedicated her full attention to track she didn’t see the immediate results she was hoping for.

“All year, especially the couple races prior to CCS I was wondering why I couldn’t get under 21 minutes. I knew it was coming, I just didn't know when,” Connolly said.

But this year at CCS things would be different. “I wasn't even thinking about a ‘break through.’ I was just thinking about running for my team. My team is my motivation. We all wanted to go to state so bad and I knew that I wasn't going to let them down.”

She did more than not let them down; the junior had ‘the race of her life’ running 20:11 for the hilly 2.95 mile course, her best by nearly a minute. But her race was not her first concern, it was her teammates. “It was so exciting not just for me to get a breakthrough but also to see that my teammates got breakthrough races. We all had to run a solid race that day and I'm so proud of every one of them, they really gave it their all.”

That selfless sentiment is one shared throughout the team.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Connolly. Breakthroughs are hard, they take consistent hard work and faith that while the results are not there yet, they will be.

“My frustrations really came out during the interval sessions.” Connolly said. “I've never been a sprinter, and then there's the other people on my team that have wheels or something. I don't know how they do it. It was always a little disappointing for me when I wasn't able to keep up with the varsity girls when we would do sprints, even if for me the times would be improving. I always received a lot of encouragement from my team and my coaches on those days. We're really good at picking each other up.”

Connolly got her start in 6th grade “because my family liked to run too” and it quickly turned into a passion. She was also involved in theater and continued to split her time with cross country, track, and theater through her Sophomore year. She then made the decision to focus on her running. “I realized theater was compromising my running. It was a really hard decision to make, but at the end of the day there was only one way to look at it: I liked theater, but I loved running.”

“I love everything about running. From the bonds with your teammates, to the celebrations, and even the disappointments. Running is something that you have to work at every day. I can't really explain why I have a passion for running. It's really hard to explain your love for running to people that don't have that love, because they think we're just crazy. Then again, maybe we are. Either way, I don't feel like I could survive without running. Running is also like my form of therapy. No matter what kind of day I’m having or what mood I'm in, a nice run will usually brighten my mood.”

As the Warriors head to the State Championship for the 5th time in 6 years, they will look to Connolly to continue to lead them along their already impressive path.

1 comment:

  1. Kellianne-
    So proud of you. You've always been as sweet a person as you are a fierce track warrior! Great to see your hard work turning into solid results, and recognition.