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Clearing all the hurdles

Kingswood grad Kirsten Silfvenius rewrites Smith College record book

by Joshua Spaulding
Sports Editor - Granite State News, Carroll County Independent, Meredith News, Gilford Steamer, Winnisquam Echo, Plymouth Record-Enterprise and Baysider

KIRSTEN SILFVENIUS competes in the NCAA championships in Wisconsin this spring. Frank Poulin - Courtesy photo. (click for larger version)
July 01, 2013
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. — Kirsten Silfvenius might indulge in a few crazy things over the next few months.

But, it's safe to say, she's earned the right.

After years working hard as a member of the Smith College track team and before that, the Kingswood track team, Silfvenius has wrapped up her track career and that means one thing.

"I've been waiting eight years to do activities without a parent or coach preparing me for the track team," Silfvenius says with a smile, noting that skateboarding, rollerblading and skiing are all on her list of things to do now that the fear of injuring herself and jeopardizing her track career are over.

"To not have that pressure is kind of liberating," Silfvenius said.

At the same time, the Kingswood graduate is also confident that she didn't miss out on things she wanted to do over the last few years, spending time in Alaska and Mongolia as part of her schooling, yet also managing to maintain her stellar career.

And it was one heck of a career.

After leaving Kingswood (and missing her own graduation to compete in the New England Track and Field Championships in Burlington, Vt.), Silfvenius first ventured to the University of New Hampshire, where she spent a little more than a year and participated in half a season of indoor track before an injury ended her year.

"It's hard to compare high school to UNH, there's a huge difference," she said. "But that's what I'd prepared for and what I expected.

"I knew after high school that I wanted to keep running track if it was possible," Silfvenius stated.

While she wanted to go to a smaller school, private schools were a reach financially, so UNH was the choice at first. But Smith was on the radar.

"All I needed was to know that I could go to a private school without putting myself in to too much debt," Silfvenius said.

And it worked out for her, as she was able to head off to Smith College, where she eventually competed in three outdoor seasons and two indoor seasons of track and became one of the most successful female athletes at the school.

"Smith had a good track program and coach (Carla) Coffey had a great reputation in the track community," Silfvenius said of her choice of schools.

But, Silfvenius was also well aware of the commitment that was needed to be a college athlete and willing to go the extra mile to make her time on the team successful.

"It's a big commitment," she said. "But I don't know how you'd have a college team without that commitment."

She noted that time management skills were certainly important when it came to being a college athlete.

"That's when the real time management comes in," she said. "But you can do it and get a lot out of it,"

And with her final race as a Smith College athlete in the rearview mirror, Silfvenius can look back and see a pretty impressive road behind her.

She holds the school record in the 100-meter hurdles for outdoor track in a time of 14.41 seconds and also has the school record in the 55-meter indoor hurdles in 8.58 seconds, the 60-meter indoor hurdles in 9.3 seconds and the indoor 500-meter dash in 1:17.43. She also has the second fastest time in the 400-meter outdoor hurdles in 1:01.43 and has the conference meet record in the 400-meter hurdles in 1:02.3.

Silfvenius won the ECAC championship in the 400-meter hurdles in 2012 and was an NCAA qualifier in the 400-meter hurdles in both 2012 and 2013 and she qualified in the 100-meter hurdles in 2013. In 2012 she was also an All-American in the 400-meter hurdles.

"She has literally rewritten our track and field record books over the last three years," Coffey said. "She set several lofty goals athletically and academically her senior season and set several new marks along the way."

The NCAA bids saw Silfvenius travel to California in 2012 and Wisconsin this year to compete against the best of the best from around the country.

"The nice thing about Division III sports is that people who are willing to put the time in can be there," she said. "And it was really fun to be part of a team that had so much fun running track and field and succeed in the way that we did."

She noted that the team brought together people from all over the world and it was great to see everyone just working together.

To cap off her career, Silfvenius was named Smith College's Senior of the Year and the Smith College Athletics Woman of the Year.

"Kirsten is one of the most versatile athletes I've ever coached," Coffey pointed out.

She noted that events like the 400-meter hurdles (or the 300-meter hurdles in high school) are a challenge and many people consider them the toughest events in track and field.

"That moment you realize you have a thought, in those short runs, you're done," she said. "If you keep that going for 100 meters, you're where you need to be.

"But in the 400, you have to be able to regroup," she continued. "There's going to be something you have to fight through and fight through, but that's what makes it fun."

And she noted there were keys to getting through the races.

"You can't hesitate," Silfvenius said. "You have to be aggressive or else you're not going to get over the hurdle.

"You have to get yourself into a place before you run and bring yourself back to that aggressive mindset," she noted.

While the ability exists now to go out and do things without the fear of injury, Silfvenius is exploring options on the table while working in Pittsburg for the summer. She majored in Anthropology and Studies of Women and Gender and is exploring internships with the International Organization for Migration, something she really honed her interest in while studying in Mongolia.

However, there's one story from Mongolia that might just sum up the dedication and effort Silfvenius put into her track career.

She notes that while living with a family in Mongolia, part of the chores was rounding up the goats at night.

"They liked me because they knew they could point at the far ones and I'd go run and round them up," she said with a laugh.

Joshua Spaulding can be reached at 569-3126 or sportsgsn@salmonpress.com.

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