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Track standout McClelland returns to win again
By Colin McWhertor

Sometimes deciding to take time off can be the best choice. Junior track athlete Kelby McClelland did just that after the spring of 2006. McClelland had just wrapped up a season that saw him capture the MIAA title in both the 110-meter high hurdles and 400-meter hurdles and go to the NCAA III Championships as an alternate on the 4x400 meter relay team. McClelland also had an NCAA III provisional qualifying score in the decathlon that year.

“Something wasn't right for me, and I had to make a decision,” McClelland said. “After talking to the coaches I decided to take the fall [of 2006] off to re-calibrate my life in a way.”

McClelland, a native of Mercer, Pa., and a graduate of Mercer Area High School, went home, spent time with his family and made a decision on his future.

“I went home, got engaged, decided to change my major, and basically knew that I wanted to come back in the spring,” McClelland said. “It was a good decision. The time really helped me decide what I wanted to do.”

Kelby McClellandMcClelland not only asked his longtime girlfriend, Rachel, to marry him, which she will do in the summer of 2008, but also decided to focus on exercise science for his degree. McClelland returned to Calvin this past spring to repeat as MIAA champion in both hurdle events, provisionally qualifying for the NCAA III Championships in the 110-meter high hurdles. McClelland made the field for nationals in the 110-meter high hurdles by running a career-best time of 14.75 seconds in his final race of the season.

“I was pretty happy to come back and win the league in both races again,” he said. “Training on my own was tough; I had never really done that to a major degree.”

McClelland credits much of his success to new assistant coach Tony Campbell. Campbell is a former Olympian in the 110 hurdles, earning a bronze medal at the 1988 games in Seoul, South Korea. For the record, that gives Calvin's coaching squad three former Olympians—Brian Diemer and Jong-Il Kim have also competed in the Olympic Games.

“After I started working with Tony, I noticed my times started getting faster,” McClelland said. “I keep getting faster, and that is a huge motivation to keep working hard. It has paid off for me this year.”

McClelland decided to focus on the hurdle events and not pursue the decathlon despite his success the previous season. “I think the time off prevented me from preparing enough for the decathlon,” he said. “I liked doing it but it is so much training—the coaches and I decided to focus on hurdles when I came back because I had a lot of potential to improve.”

His performance is not the only reason McClelland is happy he returned for the season. The time away from the team showed McClelland how important—and fun—having team members can be. “I love the team,” he said. “I really missed having teammates. This year has been so much fun, cheering for everyone else and knowing how they do. I don't just take an interest in the hurdles or the running; I like keeping up with what everyone is doing. It is nice to have such a great support in our team.”

After having so much success early in his career at Calvin, McClelland is excited about what his senior year will bring both on the track and with the team. He will bring an abundance of experience after competing this past spring at the NCAA III Championships in Wisconsin.

“I'm not going to lie—it would be pretty cool to win the conference three years in a row [in hurdles],” he said. “But I am looking forward to being a leader on the team, helping us to try to win the league again and get more people to nationals.”

McClelland will be one of many seniors who will lead a Calvin team that will try to win the MIAA for the 15th straight season on the men's side.