Undefeated: Soroco’s Ben Kelley wins three events at state track meet
May 21, 2017
Class 2A boys 3,200
1- Ben Kelley, Soroco, 9:47.71
Class 2A boys 800
1- Ben Kelley, Soroco, 1:54.75
Class 2A boys 1,600
1- Ben Kelley, Soroco, 4:22.02
Ben Kelley slapped his hands together and grimaced in frustration as he crossed the finish line in first place in the 1600-meter run, because, sometimes, when they're no longer content simply improving their own times and they're no longer content racing their actual contemporaries, the best athletes race against record-breaking performances from years past.
With the race, Kelley, a junior at Soroco High School, was a state champion — rather, a state champion again — but as he charged down the homestretch at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood on Sunday, he had a shot at breaking the Class 2A 1,600 state meet record. It would have been the second such record he'd have broken Sunday alone; earlier in the day in the 800, he smashed his own state meet mark, recorded last year.
But, he came up short. With easily the best time in his race, winning by a whopping 10 seconds, he was still 2.48 second shy of recording the best time ever in the class at the state meet.
Sometimes, great athletes get over that disappointment, and 15 minutes later, Kelley had, climbing the awards podium yet again and, for the first time all weekend, unfurling a wide smile there.
He'd set an ambitious schedule and weathered months of training, injuries and illness, some of which had threatened to derail his plans even last week. He may have come just short of the time he wanted, but he nailed the results he wanted. After his three events at the state track meet, Kelley was untouched and unchallenged.
After winning the 3,200 Saturday, the 800 Sunday morning and the 1,600 Sunday afternoon, he was undefeated.
"I could have run a little faster, but I'm really grateful, considering the situation," he said. "I was only barely able to get out there. I can't be too bummed.
"It means a lot to come in here and win all three. That was my goal all season."
Kelley capped his perfect weekend with that blistering 1,600, finishing in 4 minutes, 22.02 seconds, a personal best by 1.45 seconds.
He took the lead early, pulled away after a lap and stayed away. Levi Kilian, of Highland, was second in 4:32.77, and Christian Fagerlin, of Resurrection Christian, was third at 4:32.84.
The race looked a lot like Kelley's first victory of the day, in the 800. Again, he pulled away early and limited the drama by maintaining that lead.
His time of 1:54.81 smashed the record he'd set a year ago, when he won the same event in 1:55.61.
"It kind of started in cross country," he said, considering his quest for three championships.
He'd started the year with only one under he belt, but that'd been enough to convince him he could win the Class 2A cross country state championship. He struggled with his health through the fall, however, and finished fourth at the state championship.
So, he dove into training for track. He didn't play basketball, as he had as a freshman and sophomore, and set his eyes on winning the three distance events at the state track meet.
Sunday, it all came together, and it left him with a range of emotions.
The first was momentary, frustration at missing the record.
The second was momentary, too.
"I'm tired," he said, laughing.
"It's awesome. I'm so glad I was able to do this. I trained so hard for this, and now, it's over. I don't even know what to do next."
Well, there's one thing he had already begun to consider. Athletes are limited to four events at the state track meet.
"Maybe," Kelley said, "I could have done the 400 this year, too."