Former pole vaulter Joey Kelly, ‘20, jumps over the bar. Kelly’s favorite memory from Lehigh was the indoor Patriot League Championships this year, where he took home gold. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Q&A: Catching up with men’s track and field alumni

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The Brown and White caught up with men’s track and field alumni Trevor Knowles, ‘18, Joey Kelly, ‘20, and Kyle Sult, ‘20, about their careers as student-athletes at Lehigh and how the pandemic is affecting their post-graduation endeavors.

Q: What are you doing currently? 

Trevor Knowles, former multi: After graduation, I took a job living here in Manhattan, working at an investment bank called Jefferies. On the athletics side, doing sports my whole life was pretty important to me, so I tried to fill that void with something new, and I found rugby. We actually just started up practice recently. When things were just kicking off with quarantine and whatnot, there were a lot of questions unanswered, so we just started practice about a month ago. So it’s been some time — everyone is shaking off the rust. 

Joey Kelly, former pole vaulter: I’m currently at the University of Virginia trying to get my doctorate in chemistry. My ultimate goal, I’m still deciding either to become a professor at a university or to go into the pharmaceutical industry or something surrounding those areas. But I have five years to figure that out, so I’ll decide later. 

Kyle Sult, former mutli: While I was at Lehigh,  I signed a contract with the Navy to commission as an officer upon graduation, so right now I’m at officer training. Then after I leave here in a month or so, I’ll go down to South Carolina to work as an instructor at their nuclear propulsion school. I have an (extra year of eligibility) but I’m not using it because I have this job already lined up and can’t go back to school.

Q:  What are your favorite Lehigh track and field memories?

TK: The bus ride home from indoor Patriot (League Championships) my senior year. The team did really well, my close friends did really well, and it was starting to close the chapter on the legacy I was trying to build. It was just all smiles for myself and my close friends and the rest of the team. It was all good vibes. You know how it feels, you work so hard for so long, all year, and the reward is so much shorter than the time that goes into it but just a lightbulb memory of looking left, looking right, and seeing my friends smiling and being happy with their performances. That memory is special because that was the last one for me. 

JK: My favorite memory was the indoor Patriot (League Championships) this year. I was able to take home gold in the pole vault. It was quite a meet, too. It’s kind of unfortunate that everything came to a pause after that because early March is when coronavirus kind of hit. But having that last moment with all my teammates there and being able to celebrate that is really just an amazing moment. I’ll be able to remember for the rest of my life. 

KS: Two come to mind. First, (the) outdoor Patriot (League Championships) last year. I focused on having fun, ended up doing really well and placing second in the decathlon. But the greatest part is after that, Trevor Knowles FaceTimed one of our teammates while I was on the podium and was trying to talk to me while I was on the podium. So it was just really great to see all the support from past years, all your teammates coming around you, and just for a big moment knowing everyone is with you through it all.

One of those people who was there with me in the second greatest moment was Joey Kelly. He’s one of the most fun kids to watch. So this indoor season, we had Patriot’s at Lehigh, which was really cool, and I was high jumping for the heptathlon six feet away from where he was pole vaulting in the open pole vault. During my high jump, I got to see him. He was nervous coming to me. I told him it was his win. He had it going in. So I talked him through that, and he ended up winning the whole thing and in super exciting fashion, getting everyone pumped up, which was just a great moment.

Q: How has your Lehigh experience influenced how you are today?

TK:  Being on the track team transitioned well (to rugby) because I had a little more legs than the rest of the guys. When I get the ball, the job is to not pass it or make any decisions, it’s just to run as fast as you can.

JK: I think Lehigh did a really good job preparing me. I think it was probably the perfect fit for me. I had a lot of lab opportunities, too, which was big for what I wanted to do. There’s just a lot of things available that I got to take advantage of, and it made me feel pretty confident (about) what I’m doing moving forward. Coach Matt  (Utesch) did a really good job helping guide my athletic journey, so I improved a lot from him. I got a lot stronger, and if you really trust the program and do everything that your coaches want you to do, I think you can perform at any level. I came to UVA  based off of just marks alone. I was their second-best jumper coming in. So I feel pretty competitive, and I feel like I can do pretty well in the ACC once the meet comes in the spring. 

KS: It was huge. First off, just from a training standpoint and learning everything, I came into Lehigh not knowing most of the events of the decathlon, so learning how to take constructive criticism, learn and grow through all that. Relying on my teammates and coaches, Coach Matt (Utesch) and Trevor Knowles were huge proponents of me getting to where I am athletically. And all those lessons learned along the way are helping with what I’m doing. That, along with just competing in the decathlon.  There are so many highs and lows, and you have to be ready for any sort of change. Just like at this Navy training I’m at now, we have to be super flexible, pliable, and ready for any change that might come up.

Q: How has balancing athletics and coursework compared to the working world?

TK: I really didn’t skip a beat when I moved into the city. I actually took a new job at the beginning of this year, and it’s been a lot tougher. The alarm clock’s going off at 4 a.m. every day, starting work at 4:15 a.m. The hours are long. It’s 4 a.m. to 7 p.m., then practice from 8 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., so it’s a full day. I always go back to the point of being a captain on the track team. There’s a lot of stuff that you have to deal with, both good and bad when being captain because it’s not just trying to be the best athlete anymore. You have to manage a lot of expectations, you have to manage (being) both someone the athletes can talk to when they don’t want to talk to a coach and vice versa. Managing athletes has helped me manage people professionally in the real world. That was learned by being thrown in the fire during my college experience

JK: I got to UVA in the summer, and I was just doing work and met up with a couple [of]people on the team. So I started to meet people, started to practice with them, get used to what UVA is like, but everything is limited. Being on the track team has helped the adjustment. I know from the other grad students I’ve talked to, it’s pretty tough to meet even the people in your class and your programs. 

KS: At Lehigh, I found that sports keeps you more focused because you know that you have super limited time throughout the day, so when you have time, you have to get that stuff done. I found in my track career at Lehigh, I was always way more focused during track season and having to get everything done on time. Out of track season, with all the free time, (I was) kind of slacking off and then cramming at the end. I think having those teammates, everyone going through that with you, and having that strict time management actually, once you get in the groove of it, helps you. It’s kind of the same, but different to what I’m doing right now. Right now, everything is so structured with telling you what to do, so it’s still time management. I have very limited time. But whereas at Lehigh, I had to find what to do with that time.

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