Scheels Athlete of the Week: Liberty High Freshman Keeney Enjoying Stellar Debut Season

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Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

Entering her first season of varsity track Liberty High freshman Ashlyn Keeney had a list of fairly specific goals.

Before the calendar flipped to May Keeney had already been forced to rewrite her goal sheet on several occasions.

Keeney won the Drake Relays 3,000 in a career-best time of 9:39.64 and added a runner-up finish in the 800 in 2:09.99 last month.

“My goal this year, I was really wanting to run under 9:45,” Keeney said after winning the Drake Relays 3,00. “I’m obviously really happy with how that went. I am a little shocked. I didn’t think it was going to be quite that fast.”

Last week Keeney continued her impressive debut season logging four first-place finishes at the Mississippi Valley Conference Valley Division meet on her way to being named athlete of the Year in the Valley Division.

Entering the postseason that begins with state qualifying meets on Thursday Keeney holds the fastest time in the state in the 3,000 and the second fastest in both the 1,500 (4:40.07) and 800 (2:09.88).

“I think there are areas that I can improve,” Keeney said. “I think I can push it even more in the postseason.”

Keeney opened her prep running career in the fall going undefeated in cross country races before the state meet.

She picked up again in the spring, logging impressive times before exploding onto the scene at the Drake Relays.

Keeney pulled away from the field over the final 800 meters to win the 3,000, covering the final 800 in 2:22.

“The last 600 meters I knew I had it I just had to finish strong,” Keeney said. “I was just really trying to trust my legs that they would push me through the finish.”

Her winning time of 9:39.64 was the fourth fastest in state history, the faster ever in Iowa by a freshman and the eighth fastest in US history for a freshman.

“The atmosphere and the environment was really cool but I was really, really nervous,” Keeney said of the Drake Relays. “My coaches they know how nervous I get and they were really helping me through it.”

Keeney continued her breakthrough at the Drake Relays with a runner-up finish in the 800 to Cedar Falls junior Mackenzie Michael.

The freshman entered with the top time in the state at 2:10.65 and took nearly a full second off that time in her runner-up Drake Relays finish.

“I started to see my times get faster and when I ran a 2:15 my goal was just to try improve as much as I could,” Keeney said. “When I hit 2:10 early this season I didn’t have much of a goal besides trying to pr as much as I can.”

Keeney built on her breakthrough Drake Relays performance with a dominant showing at the Valley Divisional.

She rolled to individual titles in the 3,000, 1,500 and 800 and helped the Liberty distance medley relay team to a first-place finish as the Lightning placed third in the team standings in their first ever MVC divisional meet.

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