Kelly Wilson: Walk-on-turned-captain

by Derek Wetmore

As young as it is, the womenâÄôs cross country team needs a leader that embodies perseverance and determination. Former-walk-on-turned-captain Kelly Wilson is that leader. Who better to display how far hard work can take you than an athlete who, prior to this year, didnâÄôt even receive scholarship money? Wilson is beginning her second season as captain. She and her coaches admit sheâÄôs not the fastest runner on the team, but assistant head coach Sarah Hesser called Wilson âÄúa great example,âÄù for some of the teamâÄôs younger members. âÄúThe great thing about Kelly is she came in as a walk-on and was very under the radar and sheâÄôs built her way up through the system,âÄù Hesser said. âÄúSheâÄôs in the top-12 for cross country now, but she started on the ground level.âÄù Having a grounded perspective is something that is sometimes lacking from top-tier competitors who become captains based solely on their performance. Wilson earned her way to captainship by striving to always be a good role model and by becoming somewhat of an unofficial program ambassador. âÄú[I try to] make sure the girls appreciate being a part of this program because itâÄôs a top-notch program,âÄù Wilson said. Part of her role is to ensure her younger teammates are at ease with different situations they may be encountering for the first time. For instance, in cross country the top 12 competitors generally travel to away meets and competitions. ItâÄôs an afterthought to most people, but getting on a plane as an 18-year-old to compete around the country can be intimidating. Wilson is the kind of leader that provides guidance to athletes in that situation, simply because sheâÄôs been around the program for five years and understands standard protocol. âÄúSheâÄôs very approachable because sheâÄôs not an All-American and she doesnâÄôt have the intimidation factor because of the times she runs,âÄù Hesser said. She added: âÄúThe members of the team recognize that itâÄôs not just about being fast âĦ sometimes those [types of athletes] make your best captains.âÄù Price earns Big Ten Runner of the Week Steph Price was named Big Ten WomenâÄôs Cross Country Runner of the Week after winning the Oz Memorial on Friday. Price also won the teamâÄôs intrasquad meet the weekend prior, en route to her first such honor. Her victory at Oz Memorial was the first medalist finish in her career. âÄúClearly sheâÄôs come in very, very prepared for the season,âÄù assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. The last Minnesota womenâÄôs runner to receive the award was Megan Duwell , who earned the honor Sept. 29, 2009. With DuwellâÄôs graduation, the program will lean heavily on Price this season. âÄúWeâÄôre going to try to close the gap between Steph and the rest of the team,âÄù Hesser said. âÄúHopefully that will help out the team as we get closer to the Griak and pre-nationals.âÄù