The best is yet to come for Kelli Petty.
The New Hope High School track and field standout took the next to last step in her prep career in style Saturday, winning three individual events at the Class 5A North Half State meet.
Petty, who has earned a track and field scholarship to compete in the fall at Mississippi State, won the 100 meters with a time of 12.52 seconds, the 200 with a time of 25.93, and the high jump with a mark of 5 feet, 1 inch.
For her accomplishments, Petty is The Commercial Dispatch Prep Player of the Week.
“I have improved a lot and I continue to improve a lot every day,” Petty said. ”
The performance was just part of a busy eight-day stretch that will include the Class 5A meet Friday at Pearl and New Hope High”s graduation Saturday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville.
This season has been all about preparing to take the next step to get to MSU. Petty”s decision not to play on the school”s fast-pitch softball team, she played on the school”s slow-pitch team that won a state title in the fall, allowed her to focus on track and field, the sport she truly loves.
The results have been impressive, especially after she played an integral role in helping the New Hope High girls basketball team win a district title. Petty joined the track and field team immediately after the basketball season and started preparations for what she wanted to be an impact season.
At the Class 5A, Region 1 meet at Oxford, Petty won the 100 (12.34), 200 (25.85), and the high jump (5-2).
At the Division 2, District 1 meet at Oxford, Petty won the 100 (12.27), 200 (25.90), and the high jump (5-4). She also was a member of the winning 4×100 team (57.68).
On Friday, she hopes to match or to beat her personal-best times in the 100 (12.2) and 200 (25.4). Her mark of 5-4 in the high jump, her first year competing in the event, is her best.
“Since my ninth-grade year I have wanted to go to state and win, and I hope this is the year to do it,” Petty said. “I was pleased with winning, but I wasn”t pleased with my times (at the North Half State meet).”
Petty said she has tried to approach this season with the attitude she has something to prove. She said she wants to show coaches, friends, and family members she made the right decision by opting to compete in track and field at MSU. She said it has been challenging living up to the expectations of people who feel she should win every event, but she accepts it and said it drives her to be her best.
As a result, Petty said she has maintained her consistency, save for the North Half State meet. She said she didn”t know what happened Saturday and hopes to regroup in time to deliver standout performances at the state meet.
“I have been trying to push myself a little more than I have in past years to get ready for the next step,” Petty said. “I don”t want to get (to MSU) and have to be taught hard work. I am trying to teach myself this year.”
Petty said she has been pleased with the results. She said she is excited to open a new chapter in her life in the fall, and feels she will be able to build on what she has accomplished this season because she will be more focused and more motivated to go even faster in college.
“Not playing softball showed me I needed to give 110 percent to track and field and that I had to have a good attitude about it,” Petty said. “I think have to grow up more when I get to Mississippi State. There won”t be any more high school coaches babying me or taking it easy on me. I am going to have to step it up a lot more when get to State. When I get there I will have to change my attitude and drive for things. It is just going to be a learning experience.”
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.