When she has to make a choice, does Kiliegh Kane always have trouble deciding?
If it’s chocolate or vanilla, does she take the swirl?
On multiple choice exams, does she fill the circle for “All of the above?”
The State College junior certainly doesn’t pick a side with track and field. She is good in the jumps — and running long distances. It is not a typical combination.
“She has kind an impish disregard for things,” said Artie Gilkes, an assistant coach for cross country and the jumping coach for track. “She doesn’t fit in the box. She doesn’t see the box. She does what she wants. She’s got a competitive drive, she wants to win and beat people, but she wants to do it in a way that’s enjoyable to her.”
In just her second season running for the Lady Little Lion cross country team, Kane already has the second-best time run during head coach Rebecca Donaghue’s 13 seasons and is in the top 5 in program history. Last spring, she finished fifth in the triple jump at the District 6 championships.
The Lady Little Lions are chasing another stellar cross country season this fall. They have already run to another Mid Penn Conference crown, and they are seeking a 16th consecutive district title and a third straight top-5 finish at the PIAA championships.
Kane has been playing a major role. Her top time this fall is 18 minutes, 42 seconds — not bad for just her second season running 5 kilometers.
“She will do whatever it takes, and she is very serious about being good,” Donaghue said. “We can see her mentality is right where it needs to be.”
Kane is not afraid to work hard or to stay after practice. Gilkes recalled one day last spring in which Kane had just finished a full-distance workout with the runners, trotted into the high school gym to get in a few reps on the triple jump and registered such a long leap that Gilkes doubled over in laughter.
“It was comical how far she jumped,” he said.
Kane started competing in the jumps in seventh grade, but she admits her training there was a little lacking last spring and likely will be again next season.
“I’ve been pretty happy with how I’ve been able to handle it,” said Kane, whose personal-best triple jump is 34 feet, 8 1/2 inches. “But there are times it can be frustrating.”
It is the muscle-type and training that make for the odd combination. The horizontal jumps use fast-twitch muscles and are about short bursts of power, and triple jumps call for even more focus on technical details. Distance running, on the other hand, uses slow-twitch muscles and tests endurance, lung capacity and withstanding pain.
Last spring, Kane competed mostly in the 800 meters, and was sixth in the 400 at the district meet, but she likely will run the 1,600 next season. The transition from the 800 — essentially a half-mile sprint in just over two minutes — to the triple jump did prove challenging.
“It can be tricky since they’re often at the same time and I have to go back and forth,” said Kane, a former cheerleader whose sister Kassidy also was a high jumper and ran cross country. “My legs always hurt after the (800) so I always do some extra stretching and get some drills in for the triple before taking my jumps.”
Donaghue, however, did see value in Kane’s jumping background. If she’s near the lead with a few hundred yards to go, guess who has a pretty good closing kick?
“She has an explosiveness to her running style,” Donaghue said. “We see a little bit here and there. She has really good turnover.”
How much Kane will be working on her jumps versus distance running during the winter indoor track season or next spring will depend a little on negotiations between event coaches Gilkes and his wife — Donaghue.
“It helped a lot that we’re married and we could talk about that a lot,” Donaghue said of last spring. “There were times when it was like, ‘I want her then,’ and “No, I want her then.’ We had to look at the big picture.”
Kane said she likes both disciplines, and “jumping has a special place in my heart,” but she knows the long runs may be where she does the best. Her ability could take her to college, where she could study psychology — or maybe marine biology.
Once again, she is caught between two very different choices.
“I guess I never really think about it,” Kane said. “Like with the running and jumping, people are like, ‘How do you do both?’ I just do.”