Kelly commits to UVA
Elizabeth Lande, Managing & Copy Editor
Kate Kelly showed up to eighth grade crew camp in khakis, not quite sure what she was getting herself into. Now a senior, she’s a world-class rower with a scholarship to the University of Virginia beginning next fall. However, even with her near future planned out, Kelly hasn’t let up her drive to succeed.
“I continue to do [crew] because I enjoyed the friendships that I made through it and also because I wanted to continue to push myself,” Kelly said. “It kind of started out as just a little summer camp thing and then turned into the next five years of my entire life.”
According to her coach Richard Parr, Kelly’s current level in rowing is the result of her hard work and positive attitude.
“She’ll do [everything] to the best of her ability,” Parr said. “She’s very serious about getting better but also [is] just a ton of fun.”
This work ethic has served Kelly well throughout her rowing career. In eighth grade, she was placed in the varsity four and, for the past three years, she’s rowed a pair at nationals. Interspersed between these prestigious competitions, Kelly has consistently medaled at regional regattas.
“My dad especially as always pushed me to be competitive,” Kelly said. “It kind of came naturally to me that in order to be successful, you have to work hard.”
Over the summer, Kelly pushed her rowing even further when she was chosen for the U.S. Rowing selection camp, the highest level of training camp for youth rowers in the nation. Kelly left school in mid-June to compete against 44 other girls for several weeks, hoping to earn a seat in one of the boats that would represent the U.S. at the world championships in Tokyo, Japan.
Ultimately selected to row in the women’s 4-, Kelly flew to Tokyo in early August. Her boat competed for a spot in the A final, a challenging process that Kelly described as a key point in her rowing experience.
“We got third in our heat, which meant that we had to go to the repechage,” Kelly said. “That race was probably the best race that I’ve ever had in the five years I’ve been rowing just because it was so aggressive and came so [much] from the heart.”
The boat placed high enough to make the A final and later finished sixth in the world.
While she wasn’t competing at this level in the first few years of her rowing career, Kelly began her college recruitment process midway through her sophomore year, reaching out to collegiate coaches.
“I wasn’t really like a big standout, and so I was contacting colleges expecting no reply back,” Kelly said.
While a few coaches did answer her emails, but the process began in earnest on September 1, the first day colleges were allowed to contact her on their own. Kelly received calls from schools such as Yale, North Carolina, Dartmouth, and University of Virginia (UVA). Over the next few months, Kelly toured multiple schools.
Parr was involved in the recruitment process as well, but according to him, a student athlete of Kelly’s level makes the process easy.
“If you look at all the boxes you’d tick for a successful college student, … Kate meets them all,” Parr said. “I don’t have to sell Kate on anyone.”
By the spring of her junior year, Kelly verbally committed to UVA.
“My values were in picking a school I thought suited me, and where the coach and the people … valued my person over my numbers,” Kelly said. “I think that the morals at UVA were what I was looking for.”
That summer, while she trained at selection camp, UVA also awarded her a scholarship for her excellence in academics and athletics.
“[That] was really, really big for me,” Kelly said. “I think that kind of showed me, ‘your work’s paying off.’”
While her success with crew has come full circle, the time it requires has prompted people to question whether or not she regrets missing out on a “normal high school experience.”
“I don’t regret anything that I’ve done in my life, especially regarding rowing,” Kelly said. “It is definitely a lot of time … but I wouldn’t put [time] into it unless I loved it.”
Kelly was also quick to point out that her journey would not be possible without support from those around her.
“My parents obviously pushed me to do my best at everything I do,” Kelly said. “[My friends] support me in everything … and my team and my coach … are incredible support systems.”
Even though she has a clear future with rowing for the coming year, Kelly is setting her sights high; she hopes to return to Worlds both this summer and as a college athlete. Looking further beyond, Kelly expressed an even more ambitious dream.
“I want to go to the Olympics, … which sounds crazy right now, but also, earlier last year, going to U19 Worlds sounded crazy, [and] I didn’t think that I could accomplish that,” Kelly said.
Regardless of where rowing takes her in life, Kelly is grateful for the lessons she’s learned from it.
“Rowing has shown me the importance of … shaking someone’s hand when you meet them or looking them in their eye or speaking up for what you believe,” Kelly said. “It’s taught me more than just moving a piece of carbon fiber across the water.”