When Granite Falls’ Kelsey Bassett concluded her junior year with a second-place pole vaulting medal from the 2A track and field state championships, she knew she’d get one more chance to win a state title.
She ended her senior year with two titles — in two different sports.
Tigers pole vault coach Paul Sheppard listed Bassett’s most glaring athletic traits one by one. He recounted her work ethic, mental maturity, physical strength and prodigious body control in the air. Perhaps what separates Bassett the most from her competition, Sheppard said, is her fearlessness.
“You need to be fearless, and she got that from gymnastics,” Sheppard said of Bassett, who enjoyed gymnastics success before competing in diving and track and field. “Things don’t go right every time (in pole vaulting), and sooner or later someone gets spooked about something. I would say Kelsey never got spooked. She is down there at the end of the runway thinking about what she’s going to do.
“When she is on that runway, she brings it. She has an intensity that is kind of scary.”
In a day when so many athletes specialize in one sport, Bassett exhibited her athleticism by winning two individual state titles in sports that she spent a combined four years competing in.
Bassett, who emphatically won a 2A state title in diving while competing for Archbishop Murphy last fall and a pole vault state championship in the spring, is The Herald’s Kristi Bartz Memorial 2018 Girls Athlete of the Year.
“I know it is a big accomplishment, but I just went into this season not having any more expectations than to have a good time,” Bassett said. “That is really what led me to my success this season, not feeling the pressure.
“Pole vault definitely is not as scary as gymnastics. In gymnastics, I took some scary falls. Overall I knew, ‘What is the worst thing that can happen, I don’t land on the (landing area)?’ I’ve taken worse falls than that.”
Bassett’s impressive senior year started in the pool, where she decided to try a sport for the first time. Sure, there’s correlation between diving and the body control needed in gymnastics, but Bassett’s immediate success was striking.
“It was really shocking to me,” Bassett said. “As soon as I got on the diving board for the first practice, my coach knew we were going to the postseason. My coach thought this could go one of two ways: ‘You could freak out and not know where you are because of the water, or you could really succeed in the sport.’ Thankfully, it happened to be a successful season.”
Bassett scored 339.25 points at the 2A state swimming and diving championships, taking first place by 33.1 points.
Then came track and field season.
“There were a lot of highlights, but my favorite memory was when I jumped 12 feet for the first time,” said Bassett, who all year carefully managed back pain stemming from her gymnastics career. “I wasn’t feeling good, I was hot, and I remember I felt like throwing up on the runway. I ended up (setting a personal record), jumping 12 feet, 6 inches. I think I made a lot of people proud and inspired other jumpers who were there.”
At the 2A District 1-2 championships, Bassett once again set a personal record, jumping 12-7. One week later at the state meet, Bassett again cleared 12-6, winning the title by one foot.
This fall Bassett will head to Carroll College in Helena, Montana, where she’ll compete in track and field and study biology as part of her path toward becoming a veterinarian.
“I come from a small town and a military family, and I’ve definitely had to work hard to where I have gotten,” Bassett said. “That is something that I am proud of, (as well as) the decisions I’ve made to get me where I am. I definitely couldn’t have done it without good support.”