Kelly Moodry stood in darkness on the track around Homer Scott Field Tuesday night. It was pushing 11 p.m.
It had been some time since the lights above the track had been powered on, and there was no need for them Tuesday. Moodry was just one of four people at the track. No race was scheduled; the stands were empty.
Moodry paced back and forth along a 10-meter stretch of the track, the track she called home for the last several months of her senior track season. As she paced, brief bursts of light illuminated the state champion as Press photographer Justin Sheely snapped photos to go with Moodry’s upcoming Spring Athlete of the Year spread.
Her form was perfect — at least to the untrained eye — even as simple semi-jogs of only four or five strides. It was obvious as to why she was a multi-year state champion, a Boise State University signee and our Spring Athlete of the Year.
But the darkness of the night sky Tuesday served as more than just a backdrop to a photoshoot. It signified an unfortunate rough patch Moodry sprinted through, as best she could, as she capped off her high school career.
Just ahead of the state track meet earlier this month, the 4A favorite suffered a hamstring injury that looked like it might cut her dominant season short. She couldn’t even compete at the regional meet, and added practice time leading up to the state meet was wishful thinking.
When the season began — Moodry’s first at Sheridan High School after moving from Gillette last summer — nobody expected Moodry to lose. “Who would take second place?” fans debated. After missing the regional meet, those same people wondered if she’d even compete at state.
But she did.
She took fourth in the 800-meter run, a positive sign ahead of her even stronger events, the 200 and 400. Still, Moodry couldn’t push off the blocks because of her injury and opted for a block-less start — another handicap.
While the speedster — she had the fastest 200, 400 and 800 times in the state this year — eventually won gold in the 200 and 4×400-meter relay, it was a false start in the 400 earlier in the meet’s final day that had Wyoming’s track world buzzing.
One of the most dominant runners over the last few years was disqualified from one of her best races as a senior at the state meet. Hearbreaking.
And while the darkness could have easily overtaken the All-State runner, Moodry’s reaction more closely mimicked the full moon beaming over the SHS track during Tuesday’s photoshoot — a bright spot in a pit of black.
Her sadness came not from her DQ, but from the reaction of fans claiming they “knew she would have won anyway.” Was Moodry the favorite in the race? No doubt. And we all would have certainly enjoyed watching her compete at full strength.
But that wasn’t the case, and she wanted to make sure people knew it.
“Let me take responsibility for my false start,” Moodry said via Twitter three days after the race. “Don’t discredit the athletes that have earned what they have worked for.”
A true champion. A beam of light.
Moodry made no acknowledgement of her still-sore hamstring Tuesday night. She made no gripes despite wearing out the 10-meter stretch of track during a two-hour photoshoot. She went from jacket to track uniform back to jacket a few dozen times. She inhaled gobs of stinky fog-machine fumes (bad) and hung around a couple of goofy journos (worse), just to get one photo for the local newspaper (coming this weekend — it’s pretty cool). It appears complaints and excuses don’t have much room within Moodry’s bright world.
Her personal records, school records, pile of medals and state championships all deserve recognition, but sometimes our local competitors earn Athlete of the Year honors for much more than their work on the track.