The Wolfpacker

Sept.-Oct. 2020

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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36 ■ THE WOLFPACKER "I really want to be a vet, and NC State has a really strong animal science program and med school," Chmiel said. "That was definitely a pull for me." It also helped that NC State has earned a national reputa- tion as a consistently competitive program in the sport ac- cording to Chmiel, who finished in the top five at the Nike Cross Nationals all four seasons of her high school career. It's become the new normal for women's cross country and track head coach Laurie Henes, who is entering her 29th year with the Wolfpack track and field staff, to attract some of the top runners in the country to compete in Raleigh. "Almost immediately, we clicked very well with her and her family," Henes said. "She comes from a high school program that's won a couple national titles. "We were really impressed with her ability to compete well at big-time championships in high school. Throughout her career she has been extremely consistent." Her high performance in high school quickly translated to the collegiate level. Last season, she earned All-America honors in cross country by placing 22nd overall at the NCAA Championships and was the fastest American fresh- man with a time of 20:32.5 in the 6,000-meter race. "She did an amazing job throughout her whole freshman cross country season, but she performed particularly well at nationals," Henes said. "There's nothing really like it in a lot of other sports with all the best people in one race. "It's not broken out into different games or different heats — it's all the same people at the same starting line. She handled that really well." She also finished fourth overall in both her first ACC Championships and regional meet. Her time of 20:02.6 at the regional meet was also the best among freshmen in the field. According to Chmiel, it helped to train with fellow All- American and last year's ACC cross country champion Elly Henes, who is the daughter of Laurie Henes. "It was really great to have Elly as a workout partner," Chmiel said. "I have never been pushed like that in workouts before. I think that helped me grow a lot as a freshman." The 2016 New York State Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year as a sophomore in high school, Chmiel became accustomed to fending off less-talented competi- tors trying to catch up with her before arriving in Raleigh. "The biggest difference in college is probably in races, just the number of people who are both in the race and just able to compete to win," Chmiel said. "In high school, it seems like a much smaller pack at the top, and in college there are just so many talented runners." Chmiel's success in year one at NC State didn't come as a surprise to her head coach. "Kelsey is definitely at that level, but you never know how freshmen are going to respond to that kind of situa- tion," Henes said. "It's different than anything they've seen in high school. Even when Kelsey's team was winning nationals in high school, there were only four or five people around her at any given time. "She is a model of consistency. She's maybe had two bad days the whole time she's been here, and one of them she was just dehydrated." Because running doesn't require a gym or any physical contact, Chmiel didn't miss a beat in her individual training this summer, while many other athletes had to take a pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to her, the best part of her sophomore year so far has been being able to reunite and work out with her teammates. This August, the NCAA canceled all fall sport national championship, but NC State can still compete at the ACC Championships Oct. 30 in Cary. "It's hard to miss big competitions but it's not really up to us what goes on," Chmiel said. "Now it's just really important for us to be training together and trying to get better, regardless of what happens in the season." ■ FAST START Kelsey Chmiel Finished First Among American Freshmen At The 2019 NCAA Women's Cross Country Championships And Will Lead A Strong Wolfpack Roster This Fall BY JUSTIN H. WILLIAMS Chmiel finished fourth at the ACC Cross Country Championships and then earned All-America honors by placing 22nd overall at the national meet. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE ATHLETICS three-time New York prep state champion in cross country, sophomore Kelsey Chmiel could have competed wherever she wanted at the college level. When the elite running talent from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., com- mitted in November 2018 to run cross country and track for the Wolfpack from her short list that included Stanford and Iowa State, she noted her decision was heavily influenced by academics. A

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