Written by Sam Graham ~ Guest Writer
Photo Credit: Lynchburg Athletic Communications
First a contributing member of the Lynchburg women’s basketball team, Kacey Kelly has now found her niche on the track and field team in the triple jump.
Kelly competes in triple jump at the 2023 Dr. Jack M. Toms Invitational, hosted by University of Lynchburg. The freshman broke the school record in the event, clearing 11.73 meters.
Lynchburg, Va. — It did not take long for Kacey Kelly to make her mark on the Lynchburg women’s track and field team. Just a few jumps in fact.
After wrapping up her inaugural season with the Lynchburg women’s basketball team, the first-year from Woodbridge, Va. took down the Lynchburg school record in triple jump, clearing 11.73 meters to outdo the previous mark set by teammate and national qualifier Aniya Seward.
“Honestly, my goal going in was to just get somewhere close to where I had jumped in high school,” Kelly said. “The fact that I ended up breaking the record is insane and took me by surprise.”
Despite that mark effectively sealing the deal on a trip to the 2023 NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, it only got better from there.
A few weeks later, Kelly jumped 12.09 meters in the event, joining Seward as the first and second Hornets in school history to clear 12 meters. She currently ranks seventh in the nation and holds the highest mark of any freshman.
At last weekend’s Old Dominion Athletic Conference Championships, she secured a pair of all-conference performances, winning the triple jump and taking second in long jump to help Lynchburg secure its fifth consecutive team title.
The craziest part: Kelly did not even try triple jump until her senior year of high school.
She discovered a talent for the event that paired with her skills on the basketball court led her to Lynchburg as a two-sport athlete, a rare feat for the collegiate stage.
She found her way to the Hornet track team in part because of a friendship between her high school coach, Mike Feldman, and Lynchburg director of track and field and cross country Jim Sprecher. Though Kelly admitted she never had a true triple jump coach in high school.
“[Kelly] has a lot of natural power, but she has a huge upside from a technical standpoint,” Sprecher said. “We’re blessed to have two of the best triple jumpers in the country and we are excited to see how far they go.”
Her teammate, Seward is currently ranked fifth in the nation making Lynchburg the only school in Division III with two athletes ranked in the top-10 of any women’s jump event.
She transitioned to the track after a successful first season with the women’s basketball team, in which she averaged 4.8 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game while making three starts.
“Kacey was a joy to have as a part of our basketball program this past season,” said women’s basketball head coach Allison Nichols. “She’s a very dynamic player on the court that has the ability to affect the game in many different ways.”
However, that transition was not without its difficulties, as Kelly dealt with a knee contusion that sidelined her for the final two basketball games of the season, adding another barrier to her adjustment to collegiate track and field.
Once being available for practice, and later competition, the first-year hit the ground running, adjusting to a change in sport remarkably quickly, especially considering the injury.
“My father always says there is no sport like basketball to get you in shape, and he has not lied,” Kelly said of her ability to adjust to track season efficiently. “All the jumping, moving, running and sheer athleticism required in basketball definitely helps increase my explosive power when it comes to track.”
Despite managing two sports, Kelly has managed to stand out in the classroom as well.
“Kacey is awesome in the classroom and I have gotten multiple comments from her professors throughout the year about how much of a joy she is to have in class,” Nichols said. “She has done a tremendous job excelling on the court, in the classroom, and now on the track this year.”
Due to a heavy academic workload and the demands that competition brings, Kelly plans to keep track and basketball separate – at least for the time being – electing not to compete during the indoor track and field season, as much as Sprecher may enjoy having her for that season as well.
Despite that, the eighth year director still sees plenty of opportunities for Kelly on the outdoor track in the future.
“We’d like to use her athleticism to develop her secondary events at the conference and regional level moving forward,” Sprecher said.
In the latter stages of this season, Kelly tried out the Javelin throw, along with fellow women’s basketball player Darria Hunter, with both qualifying for the conference meet.
From what she has shown so far, it seems as though the sky is the limit for Kelly, and her work ethic will certainly go a long way as she continues to chase goals.