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Kelly (center) at nationals in Spokane with Julia Curran-Villarreal (left, second place) and Jo Phelps (right, third place).
Kelly (center) at nationals in Spokane with Julia Curran-Villarreal (left, second place) and Jo Phelps (right, third place).
Coming Full Circle: A Tale of Two Track Athletes (Photo) - 11/05/18

Starting at age 4, Kristan Holding began accompanying her mom, Kelly Holding, as Kelly coached track and field practices at Damascus K-12 Christian School in Oregon. While Kelly trained state champion high, long and triple jumpers; hurdlers; and sprinters, Kristan watched, learned from, and mimicked her mom.

Kristan went on to compete for Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Her mom coached her throughout high school at Damascus Christian and inspired her to compete at the collegiate level. Kristan became an All-American heptathlon athlete. As a senior at Westmont, she placed sixth in the heptathlon at the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) Outdoor National Championships. She graduated from Westmont in 2016 and now coaches track and field at Portland Christian High School.

Kelly Holding, 57, coaches track and field at Mt. Hood Community College. She began coaching at MHCC in 2015 after coaching for 25 years at the high school level and three years at Warner Pacific College. A former NAIA All-American high jumper from Central Washington University, she now instructs Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) champions and All-American athletes. In her free time, Kelly trains and competes at USA Track and Field Masters meets across the Pacific Northwest.

Coached by her youngest daughter Kristan (last name now Chow), 24, Kelly pushes herself in her training, building strength, speed and stamina. She has the head knowledge, but her body “just doesn’t do it the way it used to,” she said. That’s where Kristan comes in. As Kelly’s coach, Kristan offers observations, inspiration and, in many cases, the same advice that her mom once dispensed to her.

Today, Kelly ranks 12th in the world in the high jump, third in the United States, in her age group. In June, she broke the regional record at the USATF Northwest Region competition in Seattle when she cleared 4.26 feet (1.3 meters). And at the USATF Masters Championships in July, she won the high jump event for her age group. She can now compete in the 2019 World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships, held next March in Poland.

“Just watching her, she has so much talent and it felt like such a waste for her not to be competing,” said Chow during a recent MHCC track and field practice that she accompanied her mom to. “So, my motivation was really to get her motivated.”

For Holding, inspiration comes not just from her daughter and her student-athletes, but from her late uncle too. “Uncle Kent,” as she fondly referred to him, was a high and triple jumper at Washington State University. Nearly two decades ago, Kelly remembers trying to talk him into jumping again at the master’s level. His response: “I would love to jump again, but I can’t – I’m too old.”

“Uncle Kent was always an inspiration to me, especially in my athletics career,” recalls Holding. “But when he died at 57, it got me thinking about what I wanted to achieve as I got older.”

Competing, however, is not Holding’s first passion. She reserves that for coaching. At MHCC, Holding is entering her second season as co-head coach, alongside Fernando Fantroy, of the Track and Field team. Holding and Fantroy also co-coach the MHCC Cross Country team. Together they’ve built a 25-year coaching relationship built on trust and humility.

“Neither of us carries a chip on our shoulder or a ‘I know it all’ attitude,” said Fantroy, who began coaching at MHCC in 2015 too. “We’re easygoing and have an open dialogue between each other.”

“She’s really only one of a few coaches I trust with the athletes,” Fantroy added. “We’ve built that kind of relationship over years of working with one another.”

For Fantroy and Holding, their goals for this year’s track and field athletes extends beyond the stadium and the throwing field. They want their student-athletes to bring the same passion and excitement they have for the sport into the classroom. If they can graduate all their sophomore athletes, that’d be an awesome achievement, said Fantroy.

Back at the high-jump pit, Chow takes a few practice jumps while her mom watches. Holding talks about how, sometimes at practice, her athletes will ask her if she can jump “this or that height” – just to see if she still has it – and she usually obliges. She talks about how she and Chow competed last summer at open and masters meets, and she one day hopes that they’ll both compete in master’s events together. And she points out just how much their roles have reversed – with Kristan now her coach and her biggest fan.

“When I’m at master’s meets, the other athletes will always ask me ‘Where’s your coach?’” said Holding. “I do better when she’s around.”

In recent years, MHCC has hosted several high-profile track and field events, including the 2016 Stumptown Twilight meet and a 2017 TrackTown USA Summer Pro meet. In May 2019, the college will host events for the Oregon School Activities Association’s state track and field championships.

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