Gymnast Turned D1 Track Star
4 mins read

Gymnast Turned D1 Track Star

­Junior Erin Kinney finished out her 2023 indoor track season ranked 22nd nationally in the 60 meter dash, but without a middle school injury, her record breaking season may never have happened.

In elementary school, Kinney began her career as a gymnast. However, in seventh grade, her career was halted due to an injury. Kinney found out she had a pars defect (a stress fracture of the bones of the lower spine) and a broken vertebrae which would ultimately stop her from competing in gymnastics.

Soon after her diagnosis, Kinney decided to pursue track even though she said she wasn’t the most athletic but had developed quick running skills from her time in gymnastics.

“I was really good at the floor and the vault when I was in gymnastics,” Kinney said. “I was really powerful and pretty quick, so that’s when I knew I wanted to be a sprinter.”

As Kinney began high school, she decided to start training for track more intensely with the goal of getting a track scholarship somewhere for college. During her first couple years of high school, Kinney was set on going further away to college, but her family ties to USD were in the back of her mind.

“As I got older, I realized that in the bigger programs you were just a number,” Kinney said. “I felt really valued by the coaches here and I was really impressed with what the program stood for. I just felt like I was at home here.”

Now, only a few years after making the decision to follow in her mom’s footsteps and become a Coyote, Kinney is finding her name at the top of the record books.

In the 2023 indoor track season, Kinney broke the record for the 60 meter dash with a time of 7.24 and helped her 4×200 meter relay team to a 1:40.69 finish which landed them as the Coyote record holders for the event. Kinney also placed second in the all-time record charts for the 200 meter dash only 0.44 behind junior teammate Sara Reifenrath.

“My goal going into the season was definitely to lower my school record,” Kinney said. “I kind of surprised myself as the year went on and my time slowly started to get faster and faster. My coaches did a really good job of mentally preparing me and telling me ‘You’ve trained for this, and you can do this.’ I just wasn’t expecting the season to go as well as it did.”

Now, as the outdoor season begins, Kinney said she is focusing on getting faster and securing yet another Coyote record, the 100 meter dash. Kinney currently sits in second with a time of 11.50. She is 0.06 behind the current record holder, Michelle Christie, who set the record in 1994.

Kinney is already on her way to accomplishing this goal during the outdoor track season. Her second-place time of 11.50 came during Aztec Invitational on March 25. During the same meet, she helped her 4×100 meter relay team break the USD school record with a time of 44.95.

While track is often viewed as an individual sport, Kinney said her favorite part about competing is the team comradery. She said after the Coyotes’ successful indoor season, the team hopes to recreate the magical energy they felt inside the DakotaDome.

As Kinney continues her season, she has one goal in mind: qualify for the first rounds of the national meet. As far as what the future holds for Kinney, she has an open mind.

“If I had the opportunity to go post-collegiate, I would love to,” Kinney said. “If not, I would really like to coach or be involved in track somehow, such as working at meets. I definitely want to keep track as a part of my future.”