CEDAR GROVE, NJ - Coming off an injury in the cross country season, Tom Kelly not only worked hard to get back to racing for the winter track team, but also took on a new event and earned his spot at sectionals.  Kelly is this week's Allstate Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week.  The Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley, Allstate Insurance Agent, 471 Pompton Ave., Cedar Grove. 

In addition to winter track, Kelly runs cross country and competes in the 110m high hurdles and the 400m intermediate hurdles for the spring track team.  This year he tried something new in winter track -- the 55m high hurdles. 

"I was coming off an injury in cross country so I worked really hard to get back.  Throughout my high school career I've raced everything from distance to hurdles, hurdles are my favorite and the 55m is my the one I enjoy the most," he noted.  "It's just a much faster pace.  The next shortest hurdle distance is twice that so when I run it I'm at a full blown sprint the whole time."

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Kelly's coach Colleen Bulger has nothing but praise for Kelly calling him a dedicated and hardworking athlete who always looks out for his teammates. 

"This season, Tom decided to try the 55 meter hurdles indoors, which he had never done before. He battled an injury last season, so he decided to take this on for the first time his senior year," said Bulger. "The state sectional championship is this weekend and Tom is currently seeded 4th in the event. In addition, he is one of the best leaders on the team, and spends a lot of time working with his teammates and helping them to improve on their form and hurdle skills."

Though he loves hurdles, he does admit to being challenged by one thing that the can't control -- his height.  

"Definitely my biggest challenge with hurdles is height.  When I'm at the starting line I'm always the shortest one.  Usually everyone else has five or six inches on me," he explained.  "So they're able to cover much more ground than me.  Last race, one guy was 6'3 -- I'm 5'8."

However, Kelly's height hasn't kept him from succeeding.  He named the highlight of the season as when he broke hs personal record in the 55m high hurdles which qualified him to compete in the sectionals this Saturday.  

"My goal is to get to groups which is after sectionals," he said.  "The top six in sectionals will move on."

Of course, preparing for meets in winter track can present its own challenges which forces Kelly to be creative in his training.

"Winter track definitely presents its own challenges.  Some days, like today with the ice and snow, we are confined indoors," he said.  "I was supposed to run hurdles on the track today, but instead I ran the hallways, whereas in the spring if its too hot you just bring extra water."

Despite the challenges, Kelly is really happy with the way the team has shaped up this year.  "The team has really come leaps and bounds since last year," he noted.  "People are really stepping up, especially the junior class, which is great because next year they need to be the leaders.  The team really needs them."

As for his Athlete of the Week selection, Kelly said he was pleasantly surprised.  "A lot of my friends have  gotten Athlete of the Week and I wondered if I ever would," he admitted. "To be honest, it pushed me to work a little harder and I was happy and surprised when I got the news."

The Cedar Grove Athlete of the Week is sponsored by Shelby Mobley Allstate, 471 Pompton Avenue, Cedar Grove. 

TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove  is an online newspaper serving the Townships of Verona and Cedar Grove. TAPinto Verona/Cedar Grove is accredited by the New Jersey Press Association, and is a locally owned news organization serving the community.

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