When Kellen Kimes showed up at North Muskegon for a recent West Michigan Conference track and field meet, Hart’s record-setting thrower had some concerns about the discus sector.
“There’s a public road at 120 feet and a bunch of people parked their cars there. The announcer had to announce that people had to move their vehicles,” said a smiling Kimes, whose has tossed the discus a school-record 162 feet, 11 inches this season.
He was concerned that the Norsemen’s sector would not contain his throws, so a makeshift area was created for him. One vehicle was never moved and Kimes had a close call when he “shanked” a throw.
Hart track coach Ken Kimes, who is Kellen’s father and focuses on field events, said with a grin that he was just as worried about cars on the other side of the road. “I guess their discus has always been there. I’ve been a long time since Aaron Gowell (has thrown),” he quipped about the thrower from Shelby, who holds the conference record in discus with a throw of 179-3 in 1988.
“I could have hit a house,” Kellen Kimes said. “If I threw straight at the sector, a house was at probably 165 feet and I throw around 160 to 170. … I’ve never encountered anything like that and I doubt I ever will.”
Really, it was a trivial matter for the Kimeses. After all, their accustomed to facing obstacles and finding a way to overcome.
Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
Kellen Kimes, 17, has already faced a great deal of adversity for somebody only in his junior year of high school. Start with alopecia totalis, a skin condition that causes complete baldness of the scalp. It’s a condition that’s obvious – everybody can see it.
More hidden, Kimes was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a young age. Nearest to his heart, mother Jordi has been battling stage 4 breast cancer for eight years.
Kimes faces everything with courage and he does not let circumstances stop him. He’s driven to be the best he can be in track, in school and everywhere else.
The 4.0 student is Hart’s record-holder in both throwing events, establishing new marks in the first couple meets of the season despite being relatively new to the events. The 6-foot-plus, 225-pounder broke the school record in shot put for the third time this spring on Saturday with a heave of 53-10 ½ in the Bob Misner Invitational at Grand Rapids West Catholic.
“It’s not easy, but in life when you’re faced with challenges, you learn and he learned from a young age what to do when that comes up,” said Ken Kimes, whose family moved back to the area four years ago after living in the Pacific Northwest. “You know, we’re a gigantically faith-based family and Christ is a very important part of his life.
“When he was 6 years old and he first got diabetes, we took him to Seattle Children’s Hospital and he was sitting in his little hospital bed and he goes, ‘Dad, I don’t want to do this.’ And I sat down next him, I said, ‘Kellen, what choice do you have?’ He sat down and thought about it and he said, ‘OK.’ That’s the only time I’ve ever heard him complain, even a little bit, about having diabetes.”
Ken Kimes said that his son is a Type A personality. He pays great attention to detail in everything he does.
Kellen Kimes is the baby of the family. Both of his parents played sports at Hope College, where they met, and sisters Jozie, Elli and Andee have competed in track collegiately. Ken Kimes is a former athlete at Mason County Central, where he graduated in 1987.
The Kimes family lived in Washington state before moving back to Michigan when Kellen was in seventh grade. He attended Mason County Central through his eighth-grade year, then he transferred to Hart, where his dad works in the middle school with Migrant and English Language Learner students.
Kellen Kimes is following some strong examples, but he’s also a tireless worker. He’s put on about 20 pounds of muscle since football season through his effort in the weight room, where he’ll routinely spend a couple hours after track practice.
“Technique is THE biggest thing,” Kellen Kimes said. “Especially at the point I’m in right now, where you’re just trying to fit all this technique in and you’re trying to get opinions from different coaches and things like that. Just fitting it all into one thing as well as not just doing all the technique right, but doing it at 100 percent speed and 100 percent strength, it’s really hard. The slightest mistake causes you to go from a 54-foot shot put throw to a 42. I mean, it’s ridiculous.”
Kimes began his track career as a pole vaulter, following in his sisters’ footsteps. He said his family still has pole-vault pits in their yard. He has shifted more of his emphasis on the throws, although he may return to pole vault in the future.
In the fall, Kimes played quarterback and a variety of other positions for Hart’s football team, whose 4-5 record was the best for the program since 2004. In the winter, he competed in indoor track, including doing the hammer throw. He also competes nationally in track and field.
When Kimes was a freshman, the spring sports seasons in Michigan were wiped out by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a sophomore, Kimes placed fifth in discus at the Division 3 state finals with a toss of 138-11.
His goal is to compete in track and field at the collegiate level, preferably Division I, and become an All-American.
Kimes plans to attend medical school and become a doctor, possibly in Dermatology or Endocrinology, which are both related to his skin condition.
Many in Kimes’ position may have responded, “Why me?” and not chased their goals, but he’s not wired that way.
“I know what it is: It’s my relationship with Jesus,” he said. “As a Christian, you go through life and you know that life’s not going to be easy. You’re not promised an easy life, but you know that God’s got your back and he’s always watching over you.
“When hardships do come, there are so many opportunities for good things to come out of it and there have been so many good things to come out of all the challenges of our family. One of the biggest ones is, all of us have drawn closer together. Because of my mom’s cancer especially, we are closer than ever before and that’s something I can always count on.”
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