Chelsea Hayes Wins Joe Kearney Award as WAC's Top Female Athlete
June 22, 2012
DENVER - Louisiana Tech track and field standout Chelsea Hayes was named the 2011-12 Joe Kearney Award winner, the top honor that can be awarded to an athlete in the Western Athletic Conference.
Hayes is the first Louisiana Tech athlete to win the award since Tech joined the league in 2001. Named in honor of former WAC commissioner Joe Kearney, the awards are given annually to the top male and female student-athletes in the WAC.
Idaho’s Andrew Blaser and Utah State’s Robert Turbin were named the co-winners on the male side, the first time in the 21-year history of the award that the honor has been split.
Hayes completed her career at Louisiana Tech by earning first team All-America honors in both the 100-meters and long jump earlier this month. She was the national runner-up at the indoor meet held in March. Hayes was a 14-time WAC champion and 15-time first team all-WAC honoree. She holds the WAC record in nine categories and is the only athlete in WAC history to sweep both the track athlete of the week and field athlete of the week honors in the same week (which she did twice).
A native of New Orleans, she is the school's record holder in six events and recorded the 10 best long jump distances in Tech history. Hayes is currently in Eugene, Ore. at the U.S. Olympic Trials where she is vying for a spot on Team USA for the 2012 Olympic Games in London in both the 100m dash and the long jump. A 2011 graduate with her bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech, Hayes has a lasting mark on the Tech record books with nine of the 10 fastest 100m dash times and the 10 best long jump marks in school history as well as having claimed six All-America titles, the most of any athlete in any sport – male or female – in Louisiana Tech history.
"Look at her list of honors and I think Chelsea’s athletic accomplishments speak for itself," said Louisiana Tech head track and field coach Gary Stanley. "What is impressive is she was able to accomplish all of that after being chased out of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina before her senior year of high school and almost didn't graduate from high school after bouncing around from several states and four or five high schools. Words cannot do Chelsea justice with her athleticism, drive to succeed and with the overall way she carries herself despite any type of pressure whether it be placed on her by herself, her teammates or any member of our coaching staff."
Hayes will run in the qualifying (opening) round of the 100m dash at the U.S. Olympic Trials Friday at 8 p.m. CT at Oregon’s historic Heyward Field.
Blaser was named the Outstanding Field Performer at both the WAC Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field Championships in 2012. He was also the high point award honoree at both championships. He won five titles during the two seasons including the 60-meter hurdles, high jump and heptathlon at the indoor meet and the 110-meter hurdles and defended his title in the decathlon at the outdoor meet. His performance helped Idaho to a sweep of the two championships and he did all of this despite undergoing surgery for a hernia in December of 2011. Blaser finished his career with a program-best 17 all-WAC honors in the two sports.
Turbin earned Utah State's first WAC Offensive Player of the Year award and helped the Aggies to its first winning season since 1993 and a trip to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. He rushed for 1,517 yards and led the WAC in scoring with 23 touchdowns and 138 points. The junior finished his career as the school's all-time leader in scoring with 308 points and total touchdowns with 51. He was picked by Seattle in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
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Quotes and Notables: The Joe Kearney Award Nomination for Louisiana Tech’s Chelsea Hayes
Statement of Athletic Accomplishments
Note: All but a second team All-WAC honor listed below were compiled in only a two-year time span.
- 2012 Outdoor First Team All-America (100m)
- 2012 Outdoor First Team All-America (Long Jump)
- 2012 Indoor First Team All-America (Long Jump)
- 2012 Indoor Second Team All-America (60m)
- 2011 Outdoor Second Team All-America (Long Jump)
- 2011 Indoor First Team All-America (Long Jump)
2012 Indoor Long Jump National Runner-Up
- 60m Dash
- 60m Dash Championship Mark
- Indoor Long Jump
- Indoor Long Jump Championship Mark
- 100m Dash
- 100m Dash Championship Mark
- Outdoor Long Jump
- Most points scored in a meet by a High Point Scorer
- The only athlete in WAC history to sweep both the weekly Track Athlete of the Week and Field Athlete of the Week honors in the same week, done twice (once in 2011, once in 2012)
School Record Holder in Six Events:
- 55m Dash
- 60m Dash
- Indoor Long Jump
- 100m Dash
- 4x100m Relay
- Outdoor Long Jump
Four-Time NCAA Finalist
- 100m (2012)
- Outdoor Long Jump (2012)
- Indoor Long Jump (2012)
- Indoor Long Jump (2011)
2012 NCAA Semifinalist (100m, Long Jump, 4x100m Relay)
Coach’s Statement (Gary Stanley)
Look at her list of honors and I think Chelesa’s athletic accomplishments speak for itself. What is impressive is she was able to accomplish all of that after being chased out of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina before her senior year of high school and almost didn’t graduate from high school after bouncing around from several states and four or five high schools.
Chelsea is a ferocious competitor and never has that been more true that this year at both WAC meets and twice competed in the triple jump, the only time this year she even attempts the triple jump. This is an event that is very tough and very taxing on the body, especially when she is competing in four and five other events in a two day time span. For someone with both Olympic and national championship aspirations, she risked injury and those aspirations to help her school try and win a team championship. A competitor and a selfless one at that.
Day-in and day-out, she comes to practice to work. To be brutally honest, she does not suffer fools well. When her teammates are complaining and griping, she is quick to tell them that if they aren’t here to work hard then they should go home. A more up-front and brutally honest method of leadership (not surprising from a native New Orleanian), but one that worked well with our team. It startles the younger athletes but they quickly learn what competing on the collegiate level is all about. Chelsea works hard and she competes hard.
I have been a coach at Louisiana Tech for 30 years now and as the saying goes, Chelsea may not be at the head of the class but it is a small roll to call when I consider the best athletes I have coached throughout my tenure. Hands down she is the best female athlete and she probably only rivals John Campbell, who won a national championship in the shot put.
Words cannot do Chelsea justice with her athleticism, drive to succeed and with the overall way she carries herself despite any type of pressure whether it be placed on her by herself, her teammates or any member of our coaching staff.
Senior Woman Administrator’s Statement (Mary Kay Hungate)
Chelsea Hayes is the epitome of the perfect candidate for the Joe Kearney Award. She is a student-athlete who has excelled – dominated – her sport throughout her college career on the state, conference and national stage. A six-time All-American in track and field, Chelsea is a 14-time WAC champion (60-meters, 100-meters, 200-meters, 4x100-meter relay, 4x400-meter relay and long jump) who has led the Lady Techsters to four team WAC titles during her college career. Her numbers and her records are eye-popping and include being named the WAC Female Track Athlete of the Year four times and the WAC Female High Point Scorer four times (all coming in the last two seasons). She holds the Louisiana Tech school records in the 55-meters, 60-meters, 100-meters and long jump while also being a member of the school’s 4 x 100-meter relay record setting team.
Nationally, she has qualified and competed in NCAA Championships for three straight years while earning a school record six All-American honors the past two seasons. Chelsea will leave Louisiana Tech as one of the most highly-decorated student-athletes to ever compete for the University. She will have an opportunity to possibly represent her country in the Summer Olympics as she has qualified for the Olympic trials in both the 100-meters and the long jump. Chelsea Hayes truly embodies what the Joe Kearney Award is all about.
Sports Information Director’s Statement (Patrick Walsh)
In the span of two years, what hasn’t Chelsea Hayes done? In her final two years at Louisiana Tech, Hayes was a six-time All-American, 14-time WAC Champion, 17-time All-WAC (her 18th All-WAC title came in her first year at LA Tech), four-time WAC Athlete of the Year and four-time WAC High Point Scorer. She concludes her collegiate eligibility having set eight WAC records (60m, 60m championship meet, indoor long jump, indoor long jump championship meet, 100m, 100m championship meet, outdoor long jump and most points scored by a High Point Scorer at a WAC outdoor championship meet) and this year alone, her three entries advancing to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines were more than the combined male and female entries from the rest of the league (total: two).
The Louisiana Tech record book now reads like the Chelsea Hayes Invitational – school records in the 55m, 60m, indoor long jump, 100m, 4x100m relay and outdoor long jump. Eight of the 10 fastest 100m times in school history belong to Chelsea and she has the best 10 long jump marks ever recorded by a Tech jumper. Her most impressive school record came at the conclusion of this year – her sixth All-America honor, the most by any Louisiana Tech athlete in the history of the school in any sport, male or female.
Her overall athletic ability and competitiveness was best exemplified at the WAC Championships this year. Needing the points to possibly win a women’s team title Chelsea competed in the triple jump, an event she does not practice in. At the indoor meet, she finished sixth. At the outdoor meet, she finished fourth. Sixth and fourth, respectively, in the WAC in an event she does not practice or compete in and does not train for. Any athlete would be hard-pressed to produce those results in anything, let alone something they do not practice for.
At this year’s NCAA Championship meet, Hayes advanced to the finals and was named first team All-America in both the 100m and the long jump. She was one of only three females known to advance to Des Moines in three events and the only one to do so across multiple disciplines (i.e. sprints/relays and jumps). The other two advanced in three throwing events.
And the fascinating part of Chelsea’s story is how she landed at Louisiana Tech. Recruited out of high school, Hayes was athletic but hardly remarkable with times and marks that were decent yet average. Then, right before the start of her senior year, Hurricane Katrina destroyed her high school and left her hometown of New Orleans for dead. While her mother stayed to protect and salvage their home (Chelsea went three weeks without knowing if her mother was even alive), Chelsea bounced from Maryland to Atlanta to Monroe while losing contact with many friends, relatives and the Louisiana Tech coaching staff. She eventually went off to junior college in search of stability and a place to compete when associate head coach Shawn Jackson eventually came across her profile on Facebook. She eventually came to Ruston and the rest, as they say, is history.
Chelsea has made the most of her opportunity as a student-athlete at Louisiana Tech, both athletically and academically. The aforementioned does not do justice to her athletic accomplishments and she received her bachelor’s degree last year, continuing studies in the graduate nursing program this year as she continues to set the bar higher for future athletes in Ruston. While her NCAA eligibility has been exhausted, she will continue to proudly represent Louisiana Tech and the WAC in late June as she has qualified for and will compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials in both the 100m and the long jump, having a fairly decent chance at making the Olympic team in the long jump.
It has been quite the year and quite the career, from hurricane evacuee to potential Olympian.