Soroco’s Ivy League-bound Kelley considers options for high school finale |

Soroco’s Ivy League-bound Kelley considers options for high school finale

Soroco's Ben Kelley was named 2A athlete of the year in track and field this season. He was among the many Routt County athletes that earned All-State Honors from the CHSAA this season.
Joel Reichenberger

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The plan for Soroco High School senior Ben Kelley had always been to go to University of Colorado to continue his cross country and track career.

And that was an option last autumn and winter as he began to narrow his choices, to really make the decision, but it wasn’t the only option. University of Portland entered the picture, catching his eye, and a trip to visit Iowa State was intriguing, as well. The team seemed like such a perfect fit.

There was only one opportunity Kelley couldn’t imagine turning down, however, one that, if he’d gone a different direction, he felt he was most likely to regret. Even though he realizes there’s almost no way to compare life in Oak Creek with life there, even though the school’s known for about 1,000 things before its athletics programs, Kelley is sure: he’s heading to Columbia University, to the Ivy League and New York City, to compete in track and cross country.

“They’re all nice Division 1 programs, so I knew no matter where I went, it would be good,” Kelley said. “It was about finding the best situation for me. What set Columbia apart is the knowledge it’s the place I would regret not going the most. I didn’t think I’d regret any of those other places.”

Kelley, who’s planning to study either biology or psychology, is in the midst of a dominating run in major Colorado Class 2A competitions, one that dates back to last spring’s state track and field championships. He was undefeated there, winning a state title in each of his events, the 3,200-meter run, the 1,600 and the 800, which he had also won as a sophomore and which he sees as his signature event.

He followed that up by winning the state cross country championship in the fall, running away to win the 5-mile race by 8 seconds.

He’s still deciding what his finale will look like this spring back at the state track championships.

The top 18 athletes in each event qualify to the state track meet set to begin May 17 at JeffCo Stadium in Lakewood. Athletes are limited to four events at state, and Kelley is currently in line to compete in four individual events the distance quartet of the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200. He also could run on two Soroco relay teams, the 800 relay and the 1,600 relay.

He’s ranked in the top two in Class 2A in each of those individual events to this point in the season and hasn’t hit his full stride yet.

How can a runner who won state championships in three events top that performance the following year? There’d seem to be only one way, to add a fourth championship.

That’s not exactly what motivates Kelley, however. He’s a student of the sport of running, always reading deep about other runners and looking for new ways to train and build his body.

He said he doesn’t feel any pressure to repeat last year’s show and is at least as focused on bettering his personal best times as he is collecting state medals.

Kelley’s not sure he’s ready to go for four.

He was qualified to run the 400 last year, but opted not to register for the race. He could change things this year.

The sheer volume of the challenge would be a major concern. He’d have to run five races in the three days on the Front Range. The most daunting element would be the 3,200 and, two hours later, the 800, a new quirk to this year’s schedule.

“It would definitely make the 800 a lot tougher and I’m not sure I’d be able to get the time I’d want,” Kelley said. “I don’t want to put myself in a position where I’d be in jeopardy to win that state title. That’s what I have the (state meet) record in and what I was recruited to college for, so I might switch and go with the 400 instead.”

In addition, he’s hoping to hit a few races after the high school track season and overdoing it at state track could make that difficult.

“That’s the logical reasoning, anyway,” he said. “I can’t rule out going for it.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9.

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