Missouri sophomore cross country runner Kasey Kimball is technically following in the footsteps of the rest of her family. But she doesn’t like to think about it that way.
Kimball, whose parents and brother, Stewart, ran for Missouri, has been strong for the Tigers all season. Her most impressive finishes came at the Southern Stampede on Sept. 17, where she was 13th overall and second for MU, and the Bradley Classic on Oct. 14, where she placed sixth overall and third for MU. She will compete for the Tigers in today’s Big 12 Championships in Waco, Texas.
Although Kimball, a three-time Missouri state champion in high school, was constantly exposed to cross country and track while growing up, her parents didn’t push her into running. Her father, Mark Kimball, has been a cross country coach for 30 years at Eureka High School, including coaching his daughter for four years.
“She always liked to run a little bit, and she grew up with it ... When her brother was running she’d get drug along to all those meets. I think she just viewed herself next in line to be a runner,” Mark Kimball said. “It became pretty obvious she was going to be a pretty good runner. People think we kept our kids in cages and fed them raw meat and let them out only to race, but they all just kind of gravitated that way.”
With Kimball’s family history, Missouri might have seemed like the obvious choice for her, but she entertained offers from several other Division I programs, including Florida and Kentucky, before settling on the Tigers. Many factors played into her decision.
“There’s a bunch of different reasons,” Kimball said. “I had a lot of fun with the girls on the team on my visit, and I realized I could concentrate on something I loved and reach my highest potential with Coach Becca (women’s cross country coach Rebecca Wilmes). Being close to home was really important to me, too. I didn’t think I could do out of state. And Missouri has a really good medical school. Everything just fell into place and it seemed like the perfect place for me.”
Kimball tried to not let her family’s history factor into her choice.
“I really tried to keep that separated from my decision. I really wanted to find the best place for me, not what my dad or brother wanted,” she said.
Mark Kimball didn’t pressure Kasey to select the Tigers.
“There was a definite pull there, but she had some really nice visits to Florida and Kentucky and she really enjoyed all those visits,” Kimball said. “At the same time, we wanted her to be happy, but we figure she’s the one that has to do all the running and the studying and traveling if she wanted to go somewhere far away.”
There is an obvious benefit of Kasey’s choice for her parents, however.
“Of course my parents enjoy seeing me more often and seeing more of my races and stuff,” she said. “But they left it up to me.”
Mark Kimball has had to adjust to cheering Kasey on as a supporter instead of critiquing her performance as a coach.
“The first year was hard because I was so used to being involved in how she ran and how she raced, but I knew that was no longer my role,” he said. “I was smart enough to know that I shouldn’t talk about her racing unless she broached the subject. Emotionally I was still locked in, but in reality I knew I couldn’t talk about her racing or running unless she wanted to talk about it.”
Kimball said her father, who plans to retire from coaching next year to travel to watch his daughter’s races, has successfully made the change.
“He’s pretty much just a spectator now. It’s more words of encouragement,” she said.
Kasey Kimball had to get used to the new setup as well, because no one besides her father had ever coached her before she came to MU.
“It was different,” she said. “I don’t know if in a bad way or a good way, just different. I would never trade any experience I had with my dad, but it’s good to have a different coach with different ideas.”
Kimball said there continues to be an upside to her father as her high school coach, however.
“I’m still able to brag to him about certain workouts and things,” she said, “because he does understand more than most people.”