Kailee Perry emerged victorious on Saturday at the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championships making her the first Bowling Green woman to hoist the individual trophy since Suzanne Isco back in 1995 and the fourth in the program's history. The redshirt freshman led from the gun and ultimately clocked 20:41.0 over the 6km distance.
With the win, Perry, a 2019 Morgan County, KY grad, joins a distinguished list of 11 Falcons to qualify for nationals. She'll have her opportunity to test herself against the nation's best on March 15th.
MileSplit Ohio tracked down Perry to discuss her outstanding individual performance, her team's third place showing, her goals for the national meet and more.
You really took the pace out hard from the gun, found some separation early and never looked back. Was that your race strategy going in and did you ultimately execute your plan the way you were expecting?
From the beginning of the race, I strategically had in mind to get out with a strong start. Reflecting from the Falcon Invite two weeks ago, I knew I was capable of handling the aggressiveness, so having that drive to get out front quick was the plan. From there, I just kept my eyes forward and didn't worry about what was going on behind me. I focused on attempting to create a gap between me and the rest of the field.
Aside from earning the individual conference win, you led the Bowling Green women to third overall, which is seven spots higher than last year's team placing. Talk about the team in general, how you feel they performed as a unit and what you expect from this group moving forward.
Overall as a team I feel as if we made a big impact on the conference. Compared to how we finished a year ago, we took a big step as a program. One positive is seeing all the improvement we had in a year's time. I'm really proud of everyone and how they finished. Together we achieved something great and the future is bright as we have everyone back next year.
Individually speaking, you took home a lot of hardware this season: the conference title, MAC Freshman of the Year, plus MAC Runner of the Week and Division 1 Athlete of the Week a few weeks ago. Are you surprised by all of the accolades you've earned and to what do you attribute all of your success?
It almost feels like I'm dreaming. I'm just in awe and pure happiness from how everything played out. From the summer, I wasn't sure how everything would play out with the pandemic, but I continued to work hard and do the little things to keep improving. Given the opportunity to race and have the MAC conference back was so uplifting and to see all the hard work payoff is just a super nice feeling
Did sitting out and observing the competition during the 2019 XC season help your perspective on the sport and what you were hoping to get out of it? If so, in what ways?
Being redshirted last season really fueled my desire to want it even more. I remember standing and watching the MAC at Northern Illinois University and just imagining and wishing to be racing and up with some of the top contenders. Even though I would've loved to race then, sitting out allowed me to develop a greater bond with running and to really aim to become a better round athlete by commitment and the hard work.
You've really cemented yourself in the Falcons' record books. You're the first Bowling Green woman to attend nationals since 1998, the first individual conference titleist since 1995 and the second MAC Freshman of the Year. Have you followed the history of your program and what does it mean to you to be in this company?
I've definitely kept up with and noticed some of Bowling Green's history involving the years of cross country. Seeing some of the record boards and pictures was really inspiring as it really motivated me to want to one day be like them. It means a lot to be able to join them and really a dream come true. Being on the team last year and hearing and seeing some of the history was exciting and motivated me to want to strive for this. The younger me would have never seen it coming, but it just means the world and I'm just super happy to represent BG and be a Falcon!
In this unusual season and year in general, you will have to wait until March 15th to compete at the national meet. How are you going to keep your momentum going during this lengthy stretch of time and what are your goals for the meet?
With the circumstances of nationals being postponed to March, it is very unusual, but rolling with adversity and making the best of the situation is what I intend to do! With this whole season as a whole, leading into the unknown and not knowing what to expect was a constant factor. Overcoming this motivates me even more and to know nationals is just in a couple months has my mindset geared towards representing BG nationwide.
Going back to your high school days, can you describe what your recruiting experience was like, as possibly an under-the-radar athlete coming out of Morgan County? What were you expecting and wanting vs. what you were offered?
Coming from a small town in Eastern Kentucky, it was a little hard to have my name out there. I was just a country girl with no idea of what to expect. Recruiting wise I was looking for a school in which I felt as if I fit in. The team atmosphere from the start drew me in and the coaches were so considerate and uplifting. I felt as if I was really wanted and just loved it the moment I visited. Being 6 hours from home I was nervous of not exactly fitting in, unsure of the adjustment to training, etc., however, I received an uplifting team, a coaching staff that is amazing, and just a school with everything I've ever dreamed of. I wouldn't change anything about my decision and my advice to the recruiting process is really just to follow your heart.
To wrap up, do you want to shout-out some coaches and teammates who've helped you develop as a runner and also, is there anyone back at Morgan County High School that you'd like to acknowledge?
Through this season, I really give thanks to my coaches Lou Snelling and Kelly Leatherman. From the beginning they always were there for me and believed in my capabilities even when I might've been struggling. Through training and just conversations in general, we developed that good bond in which we can depend upon one another. Also, I want to give a big shout out to my athletic trainer, Mackenzie Chamberlin. She has always been there for me in my ups and downs and supported me through everything including the hard times.