Ready to ‘Rock’
Warren’s Kyleigh Wilson to pursue track & field in college
Its been softball, soccer, gymnastics, bowling, volleyball, and track for Kyleigh Wilson.
“We did our best to give our girls the opportunity to try many activities to see what they liked and didn’t like,” said Ellen Wilson of her two daughters. “Kyleigh always gravitated towards sports, well, many sports actually, and she seemed to have a natural ability and a drive to play. She has always been a great runner and in the end it is taking her to do college track. I guess you can also say she is also a wee bit competitive.”
The recent Warren Area High School graduate probably could have picked among several sports, but it is Division II track at Slippery Rock University that she settled on.
“I always thought I was going to continue my sports career in college, but I thought it was going to be soccer and not track,” said Kyleigh. “Realizing my strong talents in track (speed and jumping) and my coaches really encouraging me to pursue my career in track, I decided that track in college would better suit me. Although giving up soccer will be difficult, I know I will have a great time in track.
“In every sport, I was always fast at running, and I guess that is what led me to track, along with a good friend and track coach both encouraging me to join the team,” she said. “Even though it was a last-minute decision, I am so glad I did. I have done softball, soccer, gymnastics, bowling, volleyball, and track.
“My favorite part about softball would actually have to be just practicing and spending time with my dad outside of practices playing catch in our backyard. I know softball was his favorite, but he supported me in whatever sport I chose to do.”
There was plenty to chose from.
“I fell in love with (soccer) first while watching my older sister play,” Kyleigh said. “My mom laughs because she says I would run up and down the sidelines while my sister’s team played; she said I ran faster than them when I was 2 years old. … Winning back-to-back soccer D10 titles was very exciting and breaking the most goals scored record was also pretty cool, too. I have played soccer since I was 4-years-old in spring,winter and fall.
Kyleigh was just getting started.
“I started at (gymnastics) very young age, too, and this I would call my foundation for having a strong body and strong work ethic that I still have today,” she said.
Bowling, volleyball and, of course, track eventually filled her athletics resume.
“Bowling was just a fun thing I liked to do with my friends every once in a while, but then I found a league and was glad I could enjoy another competitive sport to participate in.
“(In volleyball), I loved how fast-paced it was and winning the Lakeview tournament in 8th grade. I didn’t pursue volleyball in high school because of soccer.
“(In track), I loved long jump and trying pole vault for my first time this year.”
Kyleigh’s first experience in track was in middle school, but she didn’t take seriously until her sophomore year in high school.
“I was a year behind everyone in my grade when I did finally start,” said Kyleigh. “With being behind, I realized I had to push myself harder than what I thought I could, making me who I am at it today. My coaches in track were also very encouraging and taught me much more (about) track than just running. I feel I still have a lot to learn in my track future.”
Despite missing her junior season due to COVID, Wilson showed her potential with a long jump of 18 feet, 2 inches last month. It broke a 30-year school record of 17-5.5 set by Warren County Sports Hall of Farmer Julie McChesney in 1991.
“My best events are long jump, the 100 meter and 200 meter,” said Kyleigh. “At Slippery Rock, I hope to do long jump, 100 meter, 200 meter and pole vault — a new and exciting interest I have developed.
“I chose the Rock because I was interested in their Homeland Security program,” she said. “Clarion, Pitt-Brad and JCC were also in my choices. At Pitt-Brad and JCC, I was offered to play soccer and offered spots on their teams, but I needed to think about my education first, and Slippery Rock had what I was interested in. When deciding to go to Slippery Rock, I was unsure about playing soccer there, so I thought about doing track instead and reached out to the head coach there. When he was really interested in me, I decided to not only pursue my education at Slippery Rock, but also my track career. The SRU track coach was very welcoming and encouraging, that made me feel really good.”
Putting her education first is just a part of who Kyleigh Wilson is.
“Homeland Security and Corporate Fraud. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do for the longest time and not until I toured Slippery Rock and learned about the Homeland Security program did I know that is what I wanted to major in,” she said. “It just kind of stuck with me. It really seems like a exciting career with many different opportunities you can follow.”
She’s also “happy, silly, dependable, and hardworking,” according to her mom.
“Kyleigh is our baby, and our very active girl,” said Ellen. “To say we will miss Ky when she heads off to Slippery Rock in the fall is an understatement. This girl always had a game, meet, practice or some activity going on that we never missed. But that is not a complaint by any means. We truly love watching her play sports and spending time doing it as a family. Her family loves and adores her and will always be her biggest fans. Myself, her dad (Scott), sister, aunt and grandma could always be seen at the fields or in the gym cheering her on. Empty nest will be a new challenge for us as we have had 26 years of supporting our girls. We look forward to watching Kyleigh participate with the Slippery Rock track & field team and to watch her soar into her future, athletically and academically. But our house will definitely be quiet without Kyleigh, her friends, and boyfriend running in and out and keeping us entertained. We will now spend our time with our sweet older daughter and grand pig, and possibly looking to adopt a young athlete who needs a fan club. We know Ky will work hard and we wish and pray for her success and happiness. As a parent, all you can do is hope that you have prepared them for the world out there and that in the end they find their happiness.”
It seems like Scott and Ellen, and big sister Kassandra, have done a pretty good job.
“She is a person who roots for the underdog and who cares deeply for those she loves,” said Ellen of Kyleigh. “Rarely do we have to tell her to do something twice, if there is something she needs or is suppose to do she gets it done when asked or already is ahead of us and has it done. She is like that at home, in school, and while doing whatever sport she is participating in. Kyleigh will give you 100 percent. But sometimes she can be a bit of a prankster and gets a kick out of it, so keep an eye on her. She is a person who works well with a schedule and sets goals for herself and pursues them until complete. Scott and I have always stressed to both Kyleigh and her older sister, Kassandra, that it is important to always finish what you start, don’t walk away from unfinished deeds, to be dependable so not to let people or yourself down.”
Kyleigh echoes those thoughts.
“Being part of a team and not letting my team or my family down is very important to me,” said Kyleigh. “I have always been competitive and it gives me a good feeling being out there working together as a team. My family really inspires me because they are always here for me cheering me on at every event and every situation — no matter what the circumstances are — and that really pushes me to be the best that I can be. I know they will always support me.”
You may have heard them cheering for “Freddie.”
“If you ever attended one of her games, meets, or matches, you may have — or mostly likely definitely — heard cheering for someone named ‘Freddie,’ aka Kyleigh, a name her dad gave her at a very young age,” said Ellen. “Some people had trouble remembering her real name and only knew her as Freddie! Our daughters nicknames by their dad are Freddie and Bubba, coming mostly from his competitiveness.”
Slippery Rock has a good one, and wrapping her competitiveness from softball, soccer, gymnastics, bowling, volleyball and track all into one sport probably means better than good.
Photos submitted to Times Observer