Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 18
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
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(Photo by Jim Pennington, Courtesy of Springfield College)

SEVENTH HEAVEN: Kelly Curtis shows off the gold watch she earned for winning the women’s collegiate heptathlon last week at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia’s Franklin Field. Curtis, a former Princeton High star and current Springfield College junior, scored 4,738 points in the 7-event competition to top runner-up Melinda Wentz of West Chester by 106 points.

Former PHS Star Curtis Comes Home; Wins Heptathlon Gold at Penn Relays

Bill Alden

Kelly Curtis essentially begged her way into the Penn Relays.

After being unable to compete in the Holy Cross heptathlon in late April due to illness, the former Princeton High standout and current Springfield College junior became the squeaky wheel for her coach Jim Pennington.

“All week I was bugging my coach about the Penn Relays, saying there was a heptathlon in Philadelphia,” said Curtis with a laugh. “He finally got the OK, I think to shut me up.”

For Curtis, there was a lot of family history underlying her nagging of Pennington. “My father has been taking me to the Penn Relays since I was in fourth grade,” said Curtis, whose first trip to Franklin Field for the venerable event came on a “Take Your Daughter to Work” day when her father, John, was the PHS athletics director.

“My grandfather had tickets. I remember my dad taking me around the corridor of the stadium and showing me a display of Marion Jones and telling me who she was. She became my favorite runner. It is a special thing for my family.”

Crashing the Penn Relays party as a late entrant in the women’s collegiate heptathlon, Curtis went on to make her family burst with pride, winning the title as she scored 4,738 points in the 7-event competition to top runner-up Melinda Wentz of West Chester by 106 points.

Curtis didn’t bring big expectations into the competition. “I just wanted to provisionally qualify for nationals (the NCAA Division III championship meet later this month at Ohio Wesleyan),” said Curtis, who transferred to Springfield this past fall after competing for Tulane the first two years of her college career. “It was just an honor to be competing there.”

In preparing for the first session of the two-day competition which took place April 26-27, Curtis got the sense that she was going to honor the tradition of the meet.

“As I was warming up, it was like a dream,” said Curtis, who had taken part in high school races at the event for PHS.

“I couldn’t believe I was actually competing there. It had been cloudy and the skies cleared up and it was sunny. I felt like something great was going to happen.”

Once the competition started, Curtis did some great things. She set personal bests in the 100 hurdles (15.00), high jump (5’5), and 200 (26.62) to take the lead into the final day of the event.

While Curtis was happy to be in first, she felt the pressure of having the bull’s eye on her back.

“I was nervous but I was so happy I had done well on day one,” said Curtis. “Last year at the Conference USA meet, I had a great day one and then I fell apart a little bit. Last week, I tried to mimic what I did on the first day. I ate at the same restaurant for dinner and stopped at the same place for breakfast. My body was tired but seeing Franklin Field on Wednesday got me so excited.”

Curtis turned that excitement into victory as she closed the deal with personal bests in the javelin (132’2) and the 800 (2:42.4).

As she competed in the final event, the 800, Curtis had some anxious moments.

“I looked at the scoreboard and saw I was up by 200 points,” recalled Curtis. “I didn’t know how fast the others were in the 800; I just wanted to stay close to the No. 2 girl. I stayed within seven seconds. I thought that was enough so I wouldn’t lose a 200-point lead but I didn’t know I won until I saw the scoreboard; it flashed up there quickly.”

When Curtis realized victory was hers, some deep emotions flashed through her.

“It was like a whole weight lifted from my shoulders; it felt so good,” said Curtis, proudly noting that Penn Relays winners receive gold watches for their achievement.

“I felt like I was on top of the world. I still can’t believe it. I am so ecstatic. I will be forever known as the 2011 Penn Relays champion in the heptathlon.”

Curtis’s father, John, who watched the competition at Franklin Field with wife Debbie, was on cloud nine as the reality of his daughter’s win sank in.

“I can’t think of anything that tops this,” said Mr. Curtis. “When we went to the awards ceremony, we were kind of stunned. We couldn’t believe it was happening. It was a special moment for her and us. Tears well up in your eyes but you can’t cry. We are so proud of what she has done.”

Boosted by her historic victory in Philadelphia, Curtis is looking to do some more special things this spring.

“I want to be an All-American; I would have to be in the top 8 in the national meet to get that,” said Curtis, who is studying sports management at Springfield and will be doing an internship in the field this summer in Washington, D.C.

“I am one point behind the No. 1 girl right now. If weather is good, who knows what could happen. I feel so much more confidence after having won this.”

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