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Bremerton's Kennedy is runnin' down a dream
Kyle Kennedy, known for being a tough, hard-nosed football player since he was 7, started crying during his speech class last month.
The Bremerton High School senior presented his final assignment, paying tribute to the offensive line that helped him break the football team’s rushing records last fall, and the 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back was teary-eyed.
“I was choked up, I’m not going to lie,” said Kennedy, who will graduate from Bremerton Friday night.
The two-sport athlete said he was overwhelmed with emotion because he was honoring his closest friends, who like his family and coaches, have provided Kennedy with a support system both on and off the field.
For Kennedy, having parents, friends, teammates and coaches who encourage him on a daily basis means he’s more motivated to perform well.
“It’s such a great feeling, knowing you have people behind you,” Kennedy said.
Last month, the Knights standout won the Class 3A state javelin title for the track and field team after falling short the past three years.
The difference between his previous attempts and now?
It’s simple. There was more support this year, Kennedy said.
Kennedy asked his friends, including the football team’s offensive line, to join his family at the state track meet.
Seniors Max Hayes, Aaron Nagle, Shaun Hall and John Huntwork all attended the track meet. Hayes has been Kennedy’s best friend since they attended Crownhill Elementary.
“He hasn’t really changed at all,” Hayes said. “He’s always been the stronger one of our group. He’s just the same as he was when we first met.”
Prior to Kennedy’s final throw, Hayes was at his buddy’s side, pushing him to finally win state.
“Max asked me, ‘Are you really going to let him beat you?’ before I went out there, and that got me so pumped up,” said Kennedy, referring to Bellevue High School’s Tanner Lie, who led the javelin standings at the time.
While Kennedy threw the javelin for Bremerton for the last time, Hayes watched with their group of friends. Despite the nervousness, Hayes said they knew Kennedy could take the top spot.
“My stomach was in knots,” Hayes said. “I felt like I was more nervous than he was, but he stayed cool. We calmed his nerves a little bit.”
Kennedy won the title after throwing the javelin 186 feet, 4 inches.
He celebrated with his supporting crew, which also included Bremerton’s track and field coach Jeremy Blum. Last week, Blum reflected on the state title, emphasizing the importance of adults and peers in a teenager’s life.
“They may feel alone, but they don’t feel abandoned,” Blum said. “They’re out there doing it, and know we’re behind them, and they’re going to perform.”
The first-year head coach, who is also an associate pastor at Sylvan Baptist Church in Bremerton, spent the past season mentoring Kennedy.
Blum gives Kennedy a ride home whenever needed, chatting about sports, and life.
The Knights coach said the support helps, but added that Kennedy’s positive attitude also played a role in winning the state title and verbally committing to attend Butte College (Calif.) next fall.
“He’s the first one here, and the last one out,” Blum said. “I see him going far in college as long as he keeps that attitude.”
Kennedy will play football and throw the javelin at Butte College, which allows athletes to participate in multiple sports.
He plans to major in fire science so he can become a firefighter, a dream of Kennedy’s since he was a child.
Kennedy doesn’t know anyone going to the California school next year, so he’s not sure how he will keep a support system in tact. Nevertheless, he’s ready for change.
“I guess I’m going to have to get a new fan club,” Kennedy said. “But I always wanted to go to California. I kind of wanted to get out of Bremerton.”
Before leaving for California this summer, Kennedy will play in the 2011 Class 3A/4A All-Star Football game, set for July 1 at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
Kennedy, who dropped 30 pounds last summer, totaled 1,871 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in 10 games for the football team in his senior season.
He earned a first-team selection on the All-Olympic League team and was named to the Associated Press All-State team as an honorable mention after rushing for at least 200 yards in seven games for Bremerton.
Hayes said the group appreciated Kennedy’s speech, even if they gave him a hard time about tearing up.
“We called him a baby,” he added. “But we worked so hard and he worked his heart out to get all of those yards. “I understand why he was crying.”