ATHLETICS: Triple threat
Ball State's only three sport athlete balances sports, class among other things
When senior Sarah Kehe walked into morning swim practice Monday, she was greeted by her teammates like a long lost friend.
When the women's swimming and diving team began practicing the second week of the semester, they started without Kehe.
The senior missed preseason training because she was preparing for the cross country season. In all, Kehe participates in three sports: cross country, swimming and track.
"It's pretty challenging, but I've never known anything else," Kehe said. "I've done three sports since high school, so basically, I just take one season at a time."
On top of her duties to these three sports, she also volunteers her time at Elmcroft, an assisted living home and sings in a local church choir, all while maintaining a 3.8 grade point average.
"A lot of times she'll run in the house, change clothes, grab something to eat and she's off to choir practice," Kehe's roommate and swimming teammate senior Kaitlin Jasmon said. "She is extremely busy and yet, she's always there."
Some might wonder how Kehe has enough time in the day to do all of these things and still sleep. There are times when Kehe does not know how she does it either.
"I'm pretty sure I'm as close to crazy as you can get without being medically defined as such," Kehe said.
While juggling all of these activities, Kehe has still found a way to excel. In 2008, she was a member of the record setting 800-yard freestyle relay team and has consistently been the number two runner on the cross country team this season.
Today, most Division I athletes are told to specialize in a single sport so they can reach their full potential in that sport. Kehe's coaches have tried to convince her to drop a sport and specialize, but it has fallen on deaf ears.
"I've talked to her and asked her if she would consider taking a year to just focus on this or that," cross country and track coach Randy Heisler said. "She just gave me this look like I'm crazy and said, ‘I can't not swim. I can't not run; I have to do all of it.'"
In order for Kehe to be able to compete in all three sports, some concessions had to be made by everyone.
Heisler lost Kehe after Saturday's Mid-American Conference Championship and won't see her again until after the swimming and diving MAC Championship in February, causing her to miss the entire indoor track season, but gets her back in time for the start of the outdoor season. Women's swimming and diving coach Laura Seibold-Caudill did not have Kehe for the preseason training, which started earlier this semester. Men's swimming and diving coach Bob Thomas coached Kehe for three years in swimming and said that missing the preseason training has hindered her performance.
"I'd really like to have the opportunity to coach her for an entire season and see how much better she is," Thomas said. "It's one of those gut feelings you have that she'd be better if she could just swim for two more months. I'd like to see her swim year round. That would make a major difference."
Despite the desires of her coaches to pick a sport, Kehe stands firm in doing all three.
"I can't give either of them up," Kehe said. "I love them both so much. Running and swimming have become a huge part of who I am, and I just can't give them up."
Despite not spending the entire year with her teams, Kehe is still a vital part of each. Both Heisler and Seibold-Caudill said she brings a high level of excitement and leadership with her when she is with their respective teams.
"She's a great team player and definitely a major part of the team, and I know swimming feels the exact same way," Heisler said.
Seibold-Caudill said from the moment Kehe walks onto the deck of Lewellen Pool, her personality allows her to step right back into her role as a leader on the team as though she has not been gone for months.
"I think she's a great leader for the senior class," Seibold-Caudill said. "I wish we had Sarah all season. She's a great role model for all the underclassmen. She's certainly a joy to have, a joy to coach and a great teammate."
Jasmon has lived with Kehe for the past three years and said that even with her absence, Kehe brings leadership to the swimming and diving team.
"If you know Sarah Kehe, she has a very outgoing personality; she's very welcoming to other people," Jasmon said. "She's very easy to get to know. I think because of her personality, it makes it easier to adjust and for other people to adjust to what she's doing."
All of the practices, volunteering and schoolwork does wear on Kehe. The hardest times for her are the first few weeks after she transitions into a new sport. Kehe said that it's not that she isn't in shape, but her body isn't in shape for that particular sport. Kehe said those weeks are when she relies heavily on her roommates and close friends to help keep her encouraged.
"Those are the weeks where every practice hurts and that's when it's a good thing that I live with people who obviously care about me and say, ‘You're fine. You can do this. You've done it before, its not big deal,'" Kehe said. "It's a big support system. My roommates all have boyfriends, so I have this huge support network of basically seven roommates, two teams and a couple handfuls of coaches to help me out."
The support system isn't just for Kehe. When Jasmon was forced to go home over Winter Break in 2007 to have open-heart surgery, she missed a number of team-bonding activities. Jasmon said Kehe made a gingerbread cookie that she decorated to look like Jasmon and carried it around to all of the functions and took more than 200 pictures, put them on Facebook and tagged Jasmon in them so she could feel included and know that her team was thinking of her.
"I have about 200 pictures on Facebook and I'm not in any of them, but my cookie is," Jasmon said. "It's just those kinds of things that she does for people to make them feel included. No, I wasn't there but my cookie was everywhere. My cookie was a lot of places I probably wouldn't have been if I had actually been there."
Heisler said that Kehe is an advocate for those less fortunate than her, which stems to her love of volunteering at Elmcroft.
"I love working with the elderly," Kehe said. "I have a gerontology minor, so I hang out at Elmcroft Assisted Living. I wouldn't even call it work, it's so much fun, I just consider it me hanging out with the residences there."
After graduation, there isn't a lot of question about what Kehe hopes she will be able to do: triathlons. Kehe said she has the first and last legs of the triathlon down pretty well, but she has to improve on her biking.
Kehe entered her first triathlon two summers ago at the Muncie Endurathon. She finished second to a professional triathlete in the event.
"I don't think I could have won because my transitions were slow because I'm not very experienced at triathlons, and I wanted to be comfortable," Kehe said. "If I'm going to run for an hour and a half or bike for three hours, I'm not going to rush getting ready for that. I don't want blisters or any of that."
After her success in the Muncie Endurathon, Kehe said that becoming a triathlete is something she is definitely considering, if she can find sponsorship to do it. Whether she is sponsored or not, Kehe has a goal to complete two Ironman competitions by the time she is 40. She wants to complete two, she said, because anyone can do one and then quit, but it takes a true athlete to complete one and then begin to train for another.
All three of her coaches, Heisler, Seibold-Caudill and Thomas, said they think she has definite potential as a triathlete.
"I've told her that I can see her five years down the road in Hawaii [where the Ironman championship is held] wearing next to nothing with numbers painted all over climbing out of the water and just loving every second of it," Heisler said.