By Josh Brown
Miami Valley Today
MUNCIE, Ind. — Kelsey Walters wanted to add another layer of cement to her legacy at Ball State University.
And while she won’t get the chance, the Troy High School graduate’s legacy was already written in stone.
Walters’ senior season at Ball State — a Division I college competing in the Mid-American Conference — was cut short when the COVID-19 global pandemic caused the cancellation of all spring sports, including outdoor track and field season. But Walters will leave the university owning the Cardinals’ program record in the shot put in both indoor and outdoor season, leaving her with nothing to prove.
Still, it took time for Walters to come to grips with not getting a chance to compete in her senior year of outdoor.
“In the beginning, it was definitely hard to comprehend that my senior outdoor season had been taken away from me,” she said. “That was not in my control. But in all honesty, I’m so happy and blessed to have had such a good final indoor season. I accomplished way more than what I had put in my head. I’m so glad it went so well, because if it hadn’t, I wouldn’t have left my mark the way I wanted to. But now I’m leaving with both shot put records, so I can’t complain.”
The 2016 Troy graduate, who placed sixth at state in the shot put and left as the Trojans’ school record holder in that event, was able to put an exclamation point on her college career before the coronavirus pandemic shut everything down, though.
Walters, who set the Cardinals’ outdoor record in the shot put at the Ball State Challenge home meet in 2018 with a throw of 14.77 meters (48-5.5) and entered the 2019-20 indoor season at No. 2 on the school’s all-time shot put list, put that record under her belt with a throw of 15.15 meters (49-8.5) at another home meet, the Ball State Tune-Up on Feb. 21.
But she was just warming up, it turned out.
At the MAC Indoor Championships on Feb. 29, she demolished her own shot put record with a throw of 15.33 meters (50-3.5), which landed her a runner-up finish in the event.
“It was a surreal moment when I got second at the MAC Indoor,” Walters said. “I definitely knew I could go top five going in, since I came in seeded fifth. My adrenaline was pumping that day, though, and I thought I could maybe go top three.”
During the competition, she could just feel that something was different that day.
“Usually, throwing goes pretty quick as an event. But that was the longest six throws of my life,” Walters said — her second-place mark came on her second throw of the competition. “I was just so anxious to see what the next girl threw every time. It just shows that I had my game face on that day. It was my last indoor season, I had nothing to lose and I just left it all out there.”
And with Walters’ record-breaking throw being almost one full meter better than her previous indoor best, she had her sights set on even bigger things come outdoor season.
“With indoor going so well, I had big goals,” she said. “I wanted to throw the shot 16 meters and at least get to the regional in the postseason. After going 15.33 meters in indoor, I knew I was going to break my outdoor record, too. I knew I could get at least 16. And honestly, I felt like I could win the MAC outdoor championship since I was second during indoor.”
But the unthinkable happened — the coronavirus shut down every major sport, causing the cancellation of that outdoor season.
“No, I never did. I don’t think anyone could have imagined something like this happening,” Walters said. “For the high school kids out there, I can’t imagine what they’re feeling right now. They’ll never know what they could have done with their senior seasons. But in college, it’s a little different with eligibility.”
And even though she possibly could have returned for her senior season of outdoor eligibility at some point in the future, it’s just not a question she needs answered.
“In the beginning, I was like, ‘oh yeah, I’m coming back,’” she said. “But looking at the whole picture, after talking to my coaches and my family, looking at the realistic financial opportunities with it — for me, I would have been coming back for another full year just for my outdoor season and having to figure out how to travel and compete — it would’ve just put more stress on me. I wanted to break my own record again and set it better than what it is now, make it harder for someone else to get, but in the end I’m kind of glad, in a way.
“As a student-athlete, you’re always busy. And this whole thing has kind of been a wake-up call to slow down and enjoy life, enjoy the time I have with my family and friends and loved ones. It’s been sort of a blessing in disguise, at least for me.”
In the end, Walters — who was a two-time MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete and a five-time Academic All-MAC honoree — decided she was ready to move on to the next phase of her life.
“My time at Ball State was amazing, and I loved every minute of it,” she said. “It was never easy, but it was all worth it. I put my blood, sweat and tears into this sport for the last eight years of my life, but now, I know there are bigger opportunities out there for me.
“I wanted to leave a legacy at Ball State, and I did that. I know I left my mark here.”
Contact Josh Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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