To our readers,

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-century type story, ... Click here to continue

2019-20 Courier Publications/VillageSoup honor

As nation's top soccer player, Kelly kicks in as créme de la créme

Camden Hills athletic standout can do it all, no matter sport, but, ultimately, opted to excel in soccer, wrestling
By Mark Haskell | Jan 01, 2021
Courtesy of: Steve McLaughlin Photography/CCSU Athletics Kristina Kelly.

Rockport — The work ethic of Kristina Kelly, a 2020 Camden Hills Regional High School graduate, has never been in question.

She was winning cross-country races with middle school-aged runners when she was in the fourth grade. As a high school senior she was named the best female soccer player in the nation.

And her hard-working character does not just apply to athletics and academics, either.

“She showed up at our home a couple of summers ago with her new chainsaw and cut up four cords of tree-length firewood,” said Lincolnville Central School Principal Paul Russo, who also coached Kelly in cross country. “Then came back and split it.

“Clearly, she is not your typical teenager.”

Kelly, after a sensational senior year at CHRHS on the soccer pitch and wrestling mats, earned the distinction of being the 2019-20 Courier Publications/VillageSoup schoolgirl athlete of the year

Kelly earned the honor over Belfast’s Junne Robertson-McIntire; Mount View’s Hannah Coolen; Camden Hills’ Kaylyn Krul; and Medomak Valley’s Sadie Cohen. Robertson-McIntire was the 2018-19 recipient of the media company's honor.

As a senior, Kelly was a two-sport athlete for Camden Hills as a member of the soccer and wrestling teams. In past year's, she participated in basketball and track-and-field (she was a standout hurdler) for the Windjammers, excelling at a high level at both, and also was on the cross-country, soccer and basketball teams at LCS.

She also has played club soccer year-round for years, as is evidenced by her gaudy statistics on the pitch over four years with the Windjammers — 159 goals, 64 assists and 37 hat tricks.

She scored 49 goals her senior year — 14 of which came in the postseason — as she led Camden Hills to its fourth straight state Class A soccer championship. She was Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference first-team all-conference (as well as conference player of the year), All-State, All-American and capped a flawless season by being named the 2019 High School Girls National Player of the Year, believed a first for any Midcoast student-athlete being honored at that level.

Windjammer girls soccer coach Meredith Messer said Kelly “earned every bit” of her success and “there is no arguing that her talent and hard work has helped our program win four state championships in Class A soccer.”

The veteran coach added that “beyond winning, Kris contributed in other critical ways.”

“She plays at such a  high level that it consistently forced her teammates to step up and play their best,” Messer said. “She modeled for younger players how to work hard daily and not be satisfied and what it really looks like to put your team before yourself. She was humble and gracious and at times very blunt in her assessments and comments. But honesty and not holding any punches is part of her charm.”

Kelly, who ended her high school career with an astounding 159 goals, likely could have scored even more on a traditional soccer team, but Messer allowed each player on the offensively-gifted Windjammer squad to score no more than three times per game.

“I have known Kristina since she was in kindergarten,” said Russo. “I have had the pleasure of watching her develop into an outstanding student, athlete, and person. The thing about Kris you need to understand is her success is a result of her work ethic. You will not find a more proud and determined person. For her this transfers to all areas of her life — academic, athletic, and social. She is a role model for us all.”

Kelly, also an accomplished basketball player during her time at LCS, made the varsity team as a freshman at Camden Hills, but took her sophomore winter season off before joining the wrestling team her junior and senior years.

On the mats this past winter, Kelly overcame a thumb injury and sported a 12-5 record and finished second in the 120-pound weight class in the girls state championships. As a junior, she won the female state championship — in the first year of Maine Principals' Association-sponsored female state tournaments — in her weight class.

Camden Hills wrestling coach Patrick Kelly, who also is Kelly’s uncle, said his niece is a “once-in-a-lifetime” female athlete.

“Frankly, It is one thing to be dominant in a single sport,” he said. “But to have dominance in multiple sports is a rarity.”

Coach Kelly added “it takes a very 'strong-mined' individual to handle what the sport of wrestling demands and Kristina answered the call.”

“The sport of wrestling is like no other,” he said. “The in-your-face, day-to-day grind can only be handled by a select few that embrace the ‘daily’ mental and physical tests.  Kristina has an inner drive and intellect that I seldom have seen in an athlete. She was able to compete with some of the best male wrestlers in the state, and never backed down. She is very cerebral in her approach to training and competition. I think I learned more from her than she did from me.”

Now, Kelly is a freshman at Central Connecticut State, where she is on the Blue Devils’ women’s team and, like her teammates, are relishing the chance to get on the pitch in the spring after the fall season was canceled due to COVID-19.

The following is Kelly's personal information and answers to myriad of topics:

Name: Kristina Kelly.

Age: 18.

Grade: 2020 Camden Hills Regional High School graduate and freshman at Central Connecticut State.

Parents: Jack and Erika Kelly.

Town: Lincolnville.

Favorite athlete: Megan Rapinoe.

Favorite personal moment in sports: Winning states (state Class A girls soccer championship) for the fourth time.

Favorite course in school: Biology.

TV show you never miss: Vampire Diaries.

Favorite phone app: Snapchat.

What type of music do you listen to before competing: A meditation mix.

Favorite movie: The Grinch.

Food you pig out on: Chocolate ice cream.

Hobbies: Riding my motorcycle and cooking.

Vehicle you wish you were driving: Motorcycle.

Most influential person in your life: My mom.

Future plans: Complete undergrad at Central Connecticut State University then go to medical school to hopefully become an orthopedic surgeon.

Q - Can you give me us an update on where things standing for you at Central Connecticut State? Are you physically on campus. I know competitive sports aren’t happening, but are you able to work out with the team? Is that all done independently? Are you living on Zoom calls in terms of class and team activities, or are you doing everything remotely from home?

A - I’m living on campus, but all of my classes are online this semester. Luckily, CCSU is one of very few schools that haven’t shut down their athletics, so I’m able to practice and lift with my team. It took a few weeks of practicing in small groups, but we’ve been able to all be together for a month. But, if anyone on the team tests positive, we will be done until we come back (after winter break) in January. Since every practice could be the last, we’ve been working hard, but it’s fun. We’ve started to do full scrimmages on Saturdays, which everyone really likes. I love both of my coaches and how hard we all push each other while still having fun. I can’t wait to play in the spring!

Q - I distinctly remember this fourth grade girl from Lincolnville winning middle school cross-country races against sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade student-athletes. Was that a moment for you when you realized how athletically-gifted you were and that you wanted to take things to the next level with sports?

A - It’s crazy. I still remember the first race I won even though it was nine years ago. I’ve never really thought of myself as athletically-gifted, just athletic. My parents always told me to do by best, so that’s what I did. I just showed up to every game and practice and gave 100 percent. And then I think it was sixth grade when I decided that I didn’t want to stop playing when I graduated high school, but I never really thought much about college until sophomore year.

Q - You have been so diverse in your sports tastes over the years. Cross country, basketball, wrestling and, obviously, soccer. You play soccer year-round, but obviously still have time to try new things, whereas most people find one thing they are good at and stick with it. How do you do that not just physically, but also in terms of managing your time in school and socially?

A - I never really found it to be physically challenging. I would go straight from one practice to another and I loved that. Sports have always been my favorite thing to do, which I think is why I’ve tried so many and being more diverse has helped improve my soccer skills both physically and mentally. Honestly, even with all of the time that they took, I think it helped me stay on top of my schoolwork because it forced me to plan my time.

Q - COVID-19 has been going strong for almost 10 months now. How tough has it been for you personally? What have you been doing to keep busy, whether it is a show you have streamed online, sports you have watched or activities you have gotten into?

A - For the first couple months, it didn’t really affect me because I had a concussion, so I was already out of school. It actually helped me because before everything switched to online, I wasn’t able to do any schoolwork, so I was worried I would struggle to graduate on time. I didn’t do anything very exciting, but I spent a lot of time doing things around my house like painting and yard work and I was with my dogs quite a bit taking them on runs or to the dog park every day. At this point it’s just really disappointing to not be able to have a season, but unless cases spike over winter break, I’ll be able to play in the spring and then still have four years of eligibility left, which is exciting.

Q - Much is made about your athletic prowess, but what is something about you that might surprise you? A hobby or passion you have that people might not associate with you?

A - I spend a lot of time with my brother, [Drew], so whenever I tell people about what we do, they’re usually pretty surprised. I really like to go dirt biking and go for motorcycle rides. And more recently I’ve been helping him work on all of his equipment and trucks, which I enjoy a lot more than I thought I would. I pretty much just slow him down, but it’s fun to learn how to work on things.

I also really enjoy going hunting with my dad, which I unfortunately won’t have much time to do this year. Soccer has mostly been something that my mom and I have done together and hunting is one of the special things I do with my dad.

Q - Four straight state soccer championships is undoubtedly impressive. National player of the year is even better. Can you pinpoint for me moments athletically that are kind of frozen in time for you? A goal scored, a basket you made, an opponent you pinned … what are a few moments athletically that have really stuck with you?

A - I couldn’t imagine high school soccer being any better than it was. I loved every minute of my four seasons and it isn’t because of all of the goals or recognition as much as it was the team and coach [Meredith] Messer. Of course, I remember specific goals, but favorite part of each of them are because of my team. I’ll never forget when I scored my 100th goal and everyone had 100 glasses on and they were all so excited for me.

I always loved that it wasn’t just my successes. When I did well, the team did well an, ultimately, that’s all I wanted. I’ll never forget the look on coach Messer’s face when we won states last year. It was an amazing feeling to be able to score in that game and win with her as the coach. There’s nothing like hugging a coach after winning the biggest game of your life and crying with your coach because you’re so happy. Another one I love was that one against Bangor my freshman year in the northern Maine finals. I sprinted from basically midfield all the way to the goal with five minutes left in the game and scored. After it went in, it didn’t even seem real.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at waldo.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at waldo.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.
Note: If you signed up using our new subscriber portal, your username is the email address you registered with and your password is in all caps