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After consecutive national titles, Hinsdale's Kaitlyn McColly stays focused at Dickinson State

Kaitlyn McColly
Posted at 4:02 PM, Apr 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-09 18:02:19-04

BILLINGS — In high school, Kaitlyn McColly was a one-woman show.

At the 2021 Class C state track and field meet in Missoula, McColly scored 42 points in five events to lift tiny Hinsdale to a second-place finish in the final team standings all by herself.

So what she's been able to accomplish at the collegiate level at Dickinson State — consecutive NAIA individual national titles — might not come as a huge surprise.

McColly was so encouraged by her performance at state that she decided to forge a completely different path.

Dickinson State's Kaitlyn McColly won the NAIA national championship in the heptathlon on Thursday, May 25, 2023, in Marion, Indiana. Montana Tech's Abby Clark, left, took third place.

"Doing all those events and having that awesome state meet my senior year was the reason why I ended up doing track and coming to Dickinson State in the first place," McColly, a three-sport standout in high school, acknowledged to MTN Sports.

McColly originally signed to play basketball at Williston State in North Dakota but realized track and field was her best bet. And what a decision it turned out to be.

As a sophomore last May, McColly won the NAIA heptathlon championship at the national outdoor meet in Marion, Indiana, scoring 4,922 points. She won the 100-meter hurdles, and placed third in both the long jump and 800, sixth in the high jump, seventh in the 200, eighth in the javelin and 13th in the shot put.

Then, at the NAIA indoor meet last month in Brookings, S.D., McColly claimed the national pentathlon crown with 3,716 points. She took second in both the 60-meter hurdles and the 800, fourth in the long jump, fifth in the shot put and eighth in the high jump.

In both instances, it all came down to the 800 meters, a brutal race but one in which she was able to place high enough to get the job done. She finished with an outdoor PR of 2:25.27 to capture the heptathlon title, then followed with a 2:24.63 to claim the pentathlon crown.

Dickinson State's Kaitlyn McColly, a Hinsdale alum, competes at the NAIA indoor championships in Brookings, S.D., on Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024.

"Pure guts and glory for any athlete who doesn't actually train for mid-distance races after completing six other events," McColly said. "So yeah. Pretty brutal."

She continued: "The pentathlon, I came into the 800 ranked third, so my reaction was a little bit muffled by my exhaustion in comparison to the previous year. I just remember running as hard as I absolutely could, and I came across the finish line and laid down, and I couldn't see for a little while.

"As I was laying there, I had a coach above me and I was like, 'Did I do it?' But it was a little while until the results came in. And then they showed it to me and I think I was just too exhausted to have an actual reaction. But it was still just awesome."

When she arrived at Dickinson State, McColly set a goal to compete for, if not win, a national title in the multis. But she admits there was "no chance" in her mind that it would happen.

Now that she's done it — not once but twice — McColly, a nursing student at DSU, is as focused and committed as ever.

She's off to a strong start so far this outdoor season. At the Dr. Tom Johnson Open in Bismarck last Saturday, McColly won the 100-meter hurdles, took second in the long jump and helped Dickinson State finish with a PR in the 1,600 relay.

"I have a few goals for outdoor," McColly said. "Of course, defending my national championship is a big goal, but there are a lot of little goals that will go into helping me do that. One of them is to qualify for nationals in the open javelin. I'll be able compete at nationals, but hitting those higher marks in javelin would give me higher points."

Her 13.93 finish in the 100 hurdles last week in Bismarck was an outdoor PR, which crossed another goal off McColly's list.

Notably, another of her aims is to enter the national outdoor meet ranked No. 1 in the 800. That could go a long way, especially considering the dramatic but taxing fashion in which she finished those races to win her titles.

"If I can take some of the pressure off in that 800, it might be kind of nice," McColly said with a laugh.

With two national titles under her belt, McColly is still a one-woman show. And she has a lot more left to accomplish.