LINGLE – Kaelyn Riley tore an ACL early in her high school career, but the Lingle-Fort Laramie senior came back stronger than ever and with a different mindset.
She experienced a long road to recovery, but despite the injury, Riley knows she’s better off because of it. And on Thursday, May 9, in front of the L-FL High School and Middle School track teams, Riley announced she was heading to Chadron State College to continue her track and field career.
“I feel like my setback was setting me up for what I’m doing now. It was like it was supposed to happen,” she said. “Before I tore my ACL I wasn’t mentally as strong as I am now. I didn’t believe in myself. I constantly had excuses to why I wasn’t doing good. This year, it’s a whole new thing. It’s flipped in my brain. I’m doing what I should have been doing the entire time. It was a mental block that never let me get there.”
With her new approach following the injury, came success.
Riley has broken multiple school records this season, including triple jump with a distance of 35 feet 8.5 inches at the Best in the West Invite on April 23. A week later, she was a part of the 1,600-meter sprint medley relay team with Tiah Meyer, Jordan Gaspers and Jenna Kaufman, who broke the L-FL record in 4 minutes, 47.44 seconds. Last week in the SEWAC Meet, she broke a third record with a leap of 17-6 in the long jump, breaking a school and meet record.
“Her mental preparation and approach to track and field is different than it has been in years. She’s a lot more focused on what she needs to do. She’s worked hard to accomplish that,” L-FL coach Mike Lashley said. “We are really proud of Kaelyn and the work she has put in. It’s been an amazing ride. She’s an amazing student-athlete. She’s going to do well. Chadron State is getting a quality individual.”
Now her attention is on her final high school meet.
She is coming off a weekend at the 1A East Regional Meet in Sheridan where she won three events – the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash and the long jump.
“We are looking at state as frosting on the cake for her,” Lashley said. “She’s had a phenomenal season.”
Beyond that, Riley has mixed emotions heading into college.
“It’s exciting but scary at the same time,” she said. “I’m excited to see what I can do at the college level with a bunch of athletes that are on the same talent level as me.”
Riley is currently undecided on a major.