The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa cross country freshman Clare Kelly adjusting to new environment, continuing quick start

Kelly broke nine school records in high school.
Theodore Retsinas
Freshman Clare Kelly runs during the Hawkeye Invite at Ashton Cross-Country Course in Iowa City on Friday, Sept. 1 2023.

Iowa first-year cross country runner Clare Kelly spent her high school career rewriting Van Meter High School’s record books. As a Hawkeye, Kelly’s quick start to the season is showing promise for the same path in her collegiate running campaign.

During her high school career in Van Meter, Iowa, Kelly played a handful of sports. However, she always felt running — whether it was on a cross country course or a track — was where she excelled.

Throughout her high school career, Kelly was a four-time cross country state qualifier. In 2022, she finished third individually and led Van Meter to a team state title that included setting the 5,000-meter school record.

She still found more success ahead of her on the track.

Kelly is an eight-time state track champion in five events as well as a 2023 team state champion.

She holds Van Meter school records in the 400-meter, 800-meter, 1,500-meter, and 3,000-meter races along with the sprint medley, distance medley, 4×400-meter relay, and 4×800-meter relay.

“I would say track is what I am stronger in,” Kelly said. “But I think as I’ve transitioned to college, I would say I like both [cross country and track and field] equally.”

Clare Kelly initially fell in love with running because it was an outlet for her, but her passion for the sport intensified as she trained alongside her twin sister, Mary, as a Van Meter Bulldog.

Not only did the Kelly twins run together during meets, but more importantly, they were always there to provide healthy competition with each other during the offseason.

“Some of my favorite memories are going with my twin sister on long runs on Saturday mornings,” Clare Kelly said.

Although they were a dynamic duo in high school, both Kellys’ competition became official when they decided on different colleges.

Mary Kelly is beginning her first year of college in Cedar Falls, Iowa, competing on the University of Northern Iowa track and field team.

“Honestly, going into college, I always hoped we would be together,” Clare Kelly said. “I definitely miss her.”

Similarly, Mary Kelly was optimistic they would continue as teammates, so the decision to split was not easy.

“It’s been healthy for us to have our own identity,” Mary Kelly said. “[In high school] we were pretty much connected at the hip, and nothing was new, but now it’s really fun to call her and learn all the new things.”

While the Kelly twins’ final Saturday morning run was bittersweet, Clare Kelly has found many new training partners with the Black and Gold. She is settling into the cross country program exceptionally well, according to Iowa Assistant Distance Coach Shayla Houlihan.

“When freshmen come in, there is no expectation for them to make an immediate impact,” Houlihan said. “The fact that she is so consistently making an impact is incredible.”

In the first two meets of this season, Clare Kelly has earned the Iowa women’s team points as the fourth and fifth Iowa finisher, respectively. She ran her 4,000-meter race in 14:40.0 and finished her 5,000-meter race with a time of 19:40.2.

“As a freshman, you start at the bottom,” Clare Kelly said. “I just have always had the mindset of controlling what I can control.”

But she contributes more than just running to the team.

Clare Kelly is known for her competitiveness and high energy. In fact, the team has a tactic to prevent her from running too hard in the first part of a workout. They call it “caging Clare in.”

“That’s the joke on the team,” Houlihan said. “We’re like ‘Come on, Clare, get in the cage.’ We put two girls in front and three girls in the back to keep her in the middle.”

She has realized the “cage tactic” is beneficial, as the runner is still bridging the gap between high school training and collegiate-level training.

“I went to a smaller school, so I was used to leading the pack and making my own pace,” Clare Kelly said.

But at this rate, she might not need to stay in the cage for long. Houlihan is looking forward to Clare Kelly’s 6,000-meter debut, as she believes her summer training will shine through.

“The biggest thing is that she’s healthy and happy,” Houlihan said. “I see some really big things from her, and I think we can rely on her.”

As her first year continues, Clare Kelly looks forward to competing and improving the team’s finish from the 2022 Big Ten Championship meet. Last year, the Iowa women’s team finished last out of 14 teams.

Overall, her focus is contributing to the team and making her teammates proud.

“We have a bunch of great freshmen coming in and some really great upperclassmen,” Clare Kelly said. “Going forward, I am hoping we can build on our strengths.”

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About the Contributors
Mia Boulton
Mia Boulton, Sports Reporter
Mia Boulton is a freshman at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism & Mass Communication, as well as exploring a possible double major in Sports Media. She works at the Daily Iowan as a sports reporter. Outside of the Daily Iowan, Mia has been a photographer for her hometown newspaper, The Record.
Theodore Retsinas
Theodore Retsinas, Photojournalist
Theodore Retsinas is a freshman at the University of Iowa studying Neuroscience.