Kyle Clemons' Smooth Transition
June 3, 2011
After seeing KU sophomore Kyle Clemons speed by the finish line at Herschberger Track in a streak of Crimson and Blue, it might be easy to assume that he has been doing this for a long time, but actually it is quite the contrary.
“My junior year of high school was really my first season running track,” Clemens said.
The Arkansas native moved to Texas following his sophomore year of high school. During his time in Jonesboro, Clemons saw time on a different kind of field.
“I actually played baseball and was a centerfielder my first two years of high school,” the 5-11 sprinter said.
Clemens remembers his introduction into the world of track and field as a random occurrence.
“Everyone knew I was fast to begin with and our high school baseball team had just been knocked out of the playoffs,” he said. “That is when the (track and field) coaches asked me if I would run the 30 leg of the relay at the state meet.”
Clemons’ Arkansas high school track career would not last for long as he took his running shoes to the lone star state to live with his father in Rowlett. That is where he said his track and field career took flight.
“When I moved to Texas I just matured physically. I got bigger, faster and stronger because the training was so much different and more intense,” he said. “I also started thinking seriously about college and whether I could go to a bigger school if I ran track as opposed to a small school if I stuck with baseball.”
Ultimately, Clemons choice was clear as he followed in the footsteps of his mother, who ran track for Arkansas State during her collegiate days.
“I chose track because I felt I could become more successful in it rather than baseball,” he said.
With one specific sport now in his future, it was time for Clemons to decide which school he would perfect his talents at. Ultimately, the two sport star settled on KU’s legendary track and field program
“The clincher for me coming here (Kansas) was definitely the campus and the coach,” Clemons remembers. “I went on a few other visits and it just did not seem like home until I came to Lawrence.”
It was soon after stepping foot on Mount Oread, that Clemens realized the select company he was about to join.
“It definitely means a lot to be a part of this program,” he said. “The tradition here is something else and I was actually surprised to hear that the track team actually has more national championships (7), than the basketball team (5),” he said.
For Clemons, adding to his school’s championship totals is just one of the team goals he holds in high regard along with some of the individual ones he hopes to accomplish before he graduates.
“I want us to just get to that point where Kansas is back on the map as far as track and field,” he said. “But I would also like to have my picture on the wall here when I am done competing because that would mean I have had a pretty successful career.”
As far as that goal goes, Clemons is well on his way to achieving it as he will find himself competing in his second NCAA Championships in as many years, next week in Norman, Oklahoma.
“I went last year as a freshman (in Eugene, Oregon), and I was just really happy to be there,” Clemons remembers. “I was not thinking that I could go far or even be an All-American, but this year I am past that stage and want to get that top eight finish because I am more experienced and I know I can do it.”
Clemons has already proven himself on the rubber his first two seasons in Lawrence, finishing first a total of three times in the 400-meters during the outdoor portion of his freshman season and earning a ranking of 22nd in the nation in the 400 this past outdoor season.
Indoors, the sprinter and middle distance runner is equally as much of a threat, notching four top five finishes his freshman season and taking top honors in the 400-meters at the Jayhawk Classic this past January.
“I would like to be at the NCAA’s all four years,” Clemons said. “Even this year I am hoping to make All-American.”
While the seventh ranked sprinter in the Big 12 brings much talent to the track, Clemons thinks there is something as equally as important he sports with him each and every day.
“I think I bring a positive attitude and a hard work ethic to the program,” Clemons said. “I try to give it everything I have every day I am out there. Now, I am not going to say I never complain but I would like to think I get the job done while giving good vibes to my teammates around me.”
With that positive thinking and hard work ethic, the sky is the limit for this slugger turned speedster, who hopes to one day become one of the select few Jayhawks who can also call themselves Olympians.
“The Olympics have always been a long term goal of mine but there are steps I need to take before I can accomplish that,” he said. “My next goal is as I said, All-American. Then I would like to become next year’s Big 12 indoor champion which could lead to NCAA indoor champion, so the Olympics are hopefully in my future plans, I just have a lot more I want to accomplish before getting there.”
If Clemons can make achieving his goals as easy as he makes it seem, than he quite possibly may accomplish another feat he truly covets, having his plaque hang amongst the other greats that have come through the KU track and field program during the last century.