Cross country is a Kelly family tradition
For the past 12 years, cross country has been a family sport for the Kellys.
Beth Kelly was named the New Richmond cross country varsity coach in 2005. Every year since then, she’s had at least one of her four daughters on the team. That ended when the Tigers completed their 2016 season, when the youngest of the Kelly daughters, Mallory, completed her senior season. Coach Kelly said she continues as the Tigers’ head coach.
Coach Kelly’s oldest daughter, McKenzie, was a freshman when she took the coaching position. Since then the Tigers have been one of the strongest cross country programs in the area. The Tiger girls have won nine of the past 10 Middle Border Conference championships.
Coach Kelly had to be convinced to take the cross country position. She was serving as an assistant coach on the track team when Brent Aukema resigned as cross country coach. She said it was Alec Slocum, who was one of the top male runners on the team, who asked her to pursue the cross country position.
Through the seasons, Coach Kelly coached all her daughters. First was McKenzie, then Morgan, Maddie and Mallory.
“I never did because they were there. That was an added bonus,” Coach Kelly said. “It’s been a blast. The element of working with my daughters put the cherry on the top.”
The younger Kelly girls grew up around the team. Mallory was a fixture at practices since elementary school, trying to keep up with the high school kids as they went through their workouts.
“Mallory’s easy to get along with, she’s quirky, silly. The high school kids always liked her,” Coach Kelly said.
Coach Kelly didn’t run cross country in high school, but she was part of the 1980 New Richmond girls basketball team that won the MBC championship under coach Janice Christopherson.
“Coach Christopherson found a way to use athlete’s strengths, was ahead of her time in goal setting and giving players feedback,” Kelly said.
McKenzie went on to compete in cross country and track at UW-Oshkosh, where she earned All-American honors, helping the Titans win the 2013 NCAA Division 3 national championship. She is now back in New Richmond, working as an elementary teacher and an assistant coach under her mom on the cross country team.
The fire for coaching that her mother carries also seems to run in the family.
“I love being in the classroom, but there’s something about running. The energy and commitment the kids put in it makes me super excited every day to see the kids take the journey I’ve taken,” McKenzie said.
McKenzie was undecided on a major when she went to UW-Oshkosh, but it quickly became clear to her that teaching and coaching was where she was meant to be.
“The more I ran, I realized my passion was in the same place, fostering a love for running,” she said.
McKenzie said the MBC meet was “bittersweet,” seeing Mallory complete the family’s legacy of competing for the Tigers.
While the sisters are done competing, there will likely be a family connection on the team next year. Coach Kelly’s niece, Barb Kling, is an eighth grader who is expected to join the varsity team next fall.