By: Megan Thompson
What is one of the first comments a person hears when the concept of playing sports is thrown into a conversation? The answer is it is team orientated. Any person who makes the decision to become active in sports, despite the age they begin, value the concept of joining a team because the two go hand-in-hand. As the athletes get older, the team atmosphere constantly develops and becomes more of a family unit rather than just a team. Teammates become closer than they ever could have imagined. Traditionally, track and field or cross country, are viewed as more individual sports, even though you join a team in most cases to be able to compete. However, despite its traditions, redshirtsophomore cross country runner and junior track and field athlete Kelly McShea, made the choice to pursue a collegiate career in both sports, where she knew she needed the “family feel” of a team to succeed.
kelly McSHEA RS Sophomore Lisle, Ill.
In her hometown of Lisle, Ill., Kelly enjoyed the company of her four siblings, Erin (22), Kevin (18), Meghan (17) and Caleen (14), while she was growing up. Everyone played sports in middle school because it was always something to do, which was something her parents, Bill and Eileen, found to be important. They weren’t your typical athletes at a younger age, but that didn’t stop them from getting their kids involved. “My parents weren’t really athletes growing up. They didn’t compete in sports in college, and I don’t even think they did in high school, but they do exercise and are sports fans,” explained McShea. “They come to a lot of our stuff and are into it.” Growing up in a house of seven people might sound overwhelming, or a bit of a “zoo” as McShea referred to it, but it actually turned out to be what set the stage for her to find her niche in running. “My parents did push athletics and when my [oldest] sister was going to be a freshman in high school, they told her ‘We’ll give you a cell phone if you run cross country, because then you would be able to call us when you need to be picked up,’” explained McShea. “So she ran cross country and got a cell phone and ended up really liking it. Then, I guess we all followed suit.” McShea ran her first year of cross country in fifth grade, but became a serious athlete once her older sister began to run as well. “I liked it, I felt inspired. I liked the feeling of being able to improve and running is a sport where if you just run more or train harder, you’ll improve. I liked seeing the results,” McShea said. “The team side of it was also cool because everyone was very close and always cheering for each other. It was the right sport for me, and I got lucky that I turned out being pretty good at it to be able to keep on succeeding. I wanted to go further in it and didn’t want to give it up after high school, so college running just seemed like the next step.“ Over time, the McShea sisters all became distance runners with Erin just finishing her collegiate career at St. Norbert College, located in De Pere, Wis., and Meghan starting at the same high school her sisters ran for, St. Francis in Lisle, Ill. Her brother Kevin chose a different path, as he begins his freshman season on the basketball team at Missouri, but regardless, their parent’s push toward sports rubbed off on their kids. “Usually one of our neighbors are always saying ‘Yeah, I saw one of the McShea girls running a mile,’” said Kelly. “We never intentionally start out racing when we do go on runs together, we try to make it fun, but sometimes it gets competitive near the end.”
“It was the right sport for me and I got lucky that I turned out being pretty good at it to be able to keep on succeeding.”
When the time came for McShea to begin college, she knew running was something she wanted to continue, but in order for her to decide on the school she wanted to run for, a few other components were important to her decision. “I knew coming into college I wanted a team that was going to be close, because my high school team was small and close knit. I knew I wanted a team that was going to be like family to me and ISU was definitely that,” McShea explained. “Everyone is super close and everyone on the cross team are like sisters. We eat all of our meals together; we’re all friends, so we hang out on the weekends together, and we even do our homework together at the library on library night.” Even like she has with her sisters, at home from time to time, teammate bickering is inevitable because of the time the team spends together. “We’re definitely like sisters because there’s arguments and drama, but in the end we all love each other,” continued McShea. A time when the family likeness of the ISU squad became most important for McShea was quickly after she joined the team her freshman cross country season. Despite preparing the summer before arriving to campus in the fall, McShea suffered from a stress fracture in one of her legs, forcing her to take a medical redshirt, even before she had a chance to open competition. “You come in and are excited, and have all of these expectations, then you get injured and you get embarrassed because you want to do well,” McShea said as she described her injury. “All my teammates were very helpful. There were a couple other injured people on the
team, so we all kind of motivated each other and trained together, and my family was supportive too.” After healing, McShea was able to open her career at the start of the outdoor track and field season, venturing her into a new event she had never competed in before and bringing her closer to two of her teammates in particular. Recent graduate Elise Sigg, and upperclassman Kristin Zillmer, were the other two female steeplechasers on the team at the time, so naturally the three of them became training partners. “I think it was the perfect scenario. I mean how many other people get to have two other awesome athletes in the same event, that were built in training partners and motivators,” McShea said. “We pushed each other at practice, we got to do workouts together, we warmed up together, obviously race together, and talked about our races together. I guess we were all really lucky to have each other.” Zillmer and Sigg experienced successes of their own in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last season, but for McShea it was a whole new hurdle to clear, literally. “The first time I steeplechased, it was me against one other girl in a small meet,” McShea said with slight laughter in her response. “I was really nervous, but everyone just kept telling me ‘just pace yourself and have fun.’ I really liked it; it was fun. It was the first college race that I won, so it was exciting that I beat the other girl. I don’t think it was a great [race] time, but it wasn’t bad.” As the season progressed, McShea developed right along with her counterparts, which led to her contributing 14 points to ISU’s women’s team 136 points at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor
when you do get versus someone who has never been
Track and Field Championships, held at historic Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa, amounting to a bronze finish overall.
Championship, both Sigg and McShea missed qualifying, with McShea missing out by just 76-hundreths of a second.
Included in McShea’s total point effort, the trio took the top-three places in the steeplechase at the meet, a strategy developed by the coaching staff and Zillmer combined.
Even though her season ended one meet shy of the goal, McShea put together a great base to work from for the 2013-14 cross country and track and field seasons. However, different from her first season clearing the steeple barriers, McShea will have new training partners with Sigg having graduated in May at the end of last year’s spring semester and new members joining the ranks.
“In most races we would just say to each other, run together and wouldn’t decide who gets to beat who, it would normally just work out,” McShea said. “No one was ever bitter, we were all pretty equal and happy if someone beat you on one day and the next you beat them, well that was just how it happened. We never really focused on that part of the race. “It was Kristin’s idea to finish together [at the conference meet] and the coaches were obviously for that. So, we all decided that we were going to finish together, and we didn’t want to race to see who would get 1, 2, and 3. So, we crossed the line together and just left it up to the clock to determine who crossed the line first,” she explained. The girls wanted to run a good race and that’s exactly what they did, but McShea’s season didn’t end there. For any collegiate track and field or cross country runner, a season-long goal is to extend your season beyond the conference meet because that means you are one step closer to competing in the NCAA Championships. At the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Regional meet hosted by Texas, McShea ran tough with the main pack the entire race, only to finish fourth in her heat with a personal-best time of 10:10.59, six seconds better than her previous best. With the format of the top three in each heat and then the next three fastest times advancing to the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field
As much as McShea learned from her two counterparts on and off the track, she’s looking forward to what next season has to offer. “It’s great knowing that someone could come in and fill in their shoes,” McShea said with excitement in her voice. “I hope more kids want to come in and do steeple. I guess we have a little reputation going on. I think it’s fun, so let’s get as many people in there. The more the merrier.” The upcoming cross country and track seasons are looking bright for McShea after such a strong finish, but she never forgets what it was like to be injured because “it’s a lot more satisfying when you return” as she nicely put it. Ultimately, “making you tougher” in the long run. The value of working with others in any team sport will never be overlooked by a coach recruiting new players or a parent pushing his/ her child to get involved in sports, but for McShea, the closeness she has developed with her team at ISU is what kept her in this sport. She felt the sorrow any freshman feels when they move away for college, but the connection she built with her teammates in Normal, Ill., shows that her family just got a little larger all because of the sport they love, despite what tradition the sport of running may have.