Kylee Nelson, 2022 Sullivan Award Winner (Grant, 2022) during relay

Kylee NelsonKylee Nelson

Kylee Nelson, 2022 Sullivan Award Winner (Grant, 2022) during relay

2022 Sullivan Award Winner ~

Back in Kylee Nelson’s early days competing on the Lincoln High School track-and-field team you would have had a hard time convincing her she’d be running the 300 meter hurdles her senior year (2022), let alone winning the event in the PIL Championships.

Let’s just say it wasn’t love at first try.

“My freshman year I started out competed in the 110-meter hurdles, the long jump and the 100 meters,” she remembers. “Then my coach made me try to 300-meter hurdles and I hated them. I was sooo bad.”

Under the guidance—and with the insistence—of Eric Dettman, her first coach, the female winner of the first Denny Sullivan Scholarship Award would get better in a hurry.

“I just stuck with it,” Kylee says. “Beginning the summer before my sophomore year I started training year-round and going into my sophomore season I was really excited about running the event. And then COVID hit.”

Despite not being able to compete that year, Kylee kept training and got back on track her junior and senior seasons, competing in the 100 meters, anchoring the Cardinals’ 4x400 relay team and running the 300-meter hurdles, this time with a new coach, Tiara Pittman, the Lincoln record holder in the event.

Kylee’s high school accomplishments also include that PIL championship in the event she started out hating, in addition to a third-place finish in the 100 meters and another PIL championship and fifth-place state finish running the anchor leg of Lincoln’s 4x400 relay team.

All while maintaining a 3.9 weighted GPA in the classroom.

Even with her accomplishments, Kylee says the highlight of her time at Lincoln was meeting and working with her two primary coaches.

“I loved my coaches,” she says. “I’ve never met anyone so passionate about their job as Eric. He inspired so many kids. Then, when he left, I got Tiara and meeting her was my favorite experience in track. I don’t think I would be still be doing track if not for her.”

As a senior, Kylee wasn’t sure she’d even have the opportunity to continue competing after she graduated.

“My times weren’t that great that year. I didn’t want to give up track but thought I’d probably have to in college. Then I popped a really good 100 time.”

That time was good enough to earn her a conversation with an OSU coach but not any financial support. “The coach said it was too late; they’d already given out all their scholarship money.”

Then along came the news that, first, Kylee had been nominated for a Denny Sullivan Scholarship and, later, that she had one the first award given to a female.

“When I heard I won, it was crazy and awesome,” she says. “I actually didn’t think I was going to get it.”

Kylee says her first year competing at Oregon State, last spring, was “not my best. I didn’t get any PRs (personal records). I wasn’t upset with it though. My coach said that was pretty normal for a freshman.”

Off the track, Kylee says, “I really liked my first year; it was really fun. My roommate was a pole vaulter on the team, and now we’re best friends. I had a good year. Going from high school to college classes was kind of a shock, but manageable. I wound up getting good grades.”

Entering her sophomore year, Kylee is still weighing her future study and career options. She’s a biology major now with thoughts of pursuing pre-med studies and possible medical school. Both those decisions can wait.

“I just want to stay in school forever,” she says, laughing.

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