Photos courtesy of Kelly Curtis
For a lot of students on campus, being a part of the Springfield College Pride is something to be proud of. It’s a big deal here. Students come from all over the United States to be a part of the college’s Division III athletics program. Students have come from California, Hawaii, and even Alaska. They make that long trip across the U.S. with pride. But what about the select students that have the talent and the choice of what division of the NCAA that they want to participate in? Would an athlete with Division I talent choose a small Division III school in Massachusetts?
Kelly Curtis did – eventually.
The Princeton, N.J. native is a talented multi-event track and field athlete whose out-of-high school dream was to be a part of Tulane University’s athletic program. She had athletic talent and ability passed down from her father, Springfield College alumni and former professional football player John Curtis. Kelly was more than capable of competing at the Division I level.
During her senior year of high school, Curtis applied to Tulane and after a few months, she received her acceptance letter. She was ready to get away from home and compete at the highest collegiate level. For Curtis, it was go big or go home. But Curtis’s parents had other plans in the back of their minds.
“They always wanted me to go to Springfield College like my brother, who went in dad’s footsteps,” Curtis said. “Dad was there in the 1970s and he loved it there.”
“He went there because my granddad implanted the school in my uncle’s head and he was older than my dad,” added Curtis. “It became my uncle’s dream to attend Springfield College like my granddad wanted him to. But unfortunately, my uncle passed away the summer before his junior year at Springfield. So dad wanted to go and fulfill my uncle’s dream.”
Originally Curtis, who wanted to major in sociology at Tulane along with running track, wanted to create her own legacy instead of following her relatives.
“It just became a trail of every Curtis following the one before it and I didn’t want to be a part of that family legacy. I wanted to live my own life.”
Different circumstances kept Curtis from being a part of college right out of high school. She was getting ready to begin her collegiate experience when her mother developed epilepsy, sending her daughter’s dreams to a halt. Family has always been extremely important to Curtis, so there was no way she could go all the way to New Orleans knowing her mom was so sick. That’s when she gritted her teeth and applied to be a student at Lawrenceville Prep for a post-graduate year.
It wasn’t going to be all bad; she was going to play basketball for them while being able to be close enough to her mom.
“Family is really everything to me,” Curtis said. “There was no question in my mind that I needed to be there for my mom.”
Bumps in the road had kept her from Tulane at first, but soon enough, she found herself at move-in-day making new friends in New Orleans. But issues around financial aid and the absence of a first-rate facility for track began to weigh on her.
Somewhere along the way, she found herself applying to be a part of the Springfield College campus like so many of her relatives have. It was going to be a new atmosphere, new classes, new people and a new life for Curtis. She was hesitant about starting at Springfield College.
“It was the school I had told myself I was never going to be a part of. It was my dad’s school. It was my uncle’s school. It was my brother’s school. Not my school. It was hard for me to accept that it was my school now too. But the one thing that kept me positive was how the football field was where their memories lied. They played there. The track, well, it’s mine. They couldn’t take that from me.”
After arriving at Springfield, Curtis realized she had made the right decision after all. She started to make a lot of friends and the track was more comfortable. The school was smaller, so the atmosphere was calmer. Plus, she was no longer a small fish in a big ocean, but now a big fish in a small ocean of Division III athletics.
“I couldn’t see going to Springfield and not competing,” the senior said. “The pool of competition was going to be smaller. Why not go out and show them what I’ve got?”
Curtis’s seasons at Springfield have been extremely successful. She competed at the national level both seasons last year, placing 13th in the pentathlon at the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships and fourth in the heptathlon at the NCAA Division III Outdoor Track and Field Championships.
Curtis has had a successful indoor season so far this year. She was the winner of the pentathlon at the New England Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships again this year, having won it last year as well. She took fourth in the Pentathlon at the All New England championship and is going on to compete in the NCAA Division III Indoor Track and Field Championships in Iowa this weekend.
Also, Curtis, who is of a mixed-race background, received an NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Scholarship. Overall, she was one of 26 scholarship recipients, and received the Ethnic Minority portion of this award along with only 12 other students. She was one of only three athletes representing Division III colleges and universities to earn this award in 2012. This scholarship is worth $6,000.
Curtis plans to continue her education at Georgetown University in Washington, DC next year. She will pursue a graduate degree in Sports Industry Management to hopefully one day be an athletic director at an NCAA school.