Feb. 12, 2013
By Carie Cunningham, Michigan State Athletic Communications
Michigan State University and University of Michigan have been longtime rivals, but two women's track & field student-athletes have been competitors since birth. Twins sisters Kelsey Prena and Kari Prena met this season in Allendale, Mich., for the first ever women's dual track meet between the two in-state rivals. Both senior throwers, Kelsey competes for the Spartans and Kari on behalf of the Wolverines.
The two started their track & field match-up at Walled Lake Central High School in Walled Lake, Mich., where, Kelsey claims she accidentally got into throwing.
"Kari needed me for a throwing relay and my coach put me in shot-put for it," said Kelsey. "We ended up breaking the school record. I threw pretty average and for only practicing half of an hour. My coach looked at me and said you are going to be a thrower from now on."
Kelsey and Kari were each other's biggest support and competitors, outdoing each other with every throw.
"She would hit a mark and then I would be like `no', I am going to hit that mark now," Kelsey said. "In the same meet, we would break school records three times. I would break it and then she would break it and then I would break it again."
In the fall of 2009, Kelsey started her career for the Spartans as a thrower, much to her family's delight.
"Both my parents went to Michigan State," said Kelsey. "I learned the fight song before I learned the `ABCs'. For me it wasn't a choice. I was going to go to Michigan State no matter what. In my head I wanted to be there."
Kelsey thanks her sister saying, "Kari had a lot to do with getting me to the collegiate level." Kari, however, chose to compete for Michigan. Even though Kelsey admits it would have been fun to have her twin sister and biggest competitor at Michigan State, she says she was happy she could become an individual. "I am a twin, but I am not the twin," Kelsey said.
To many on the Michigan State women's track & field team, Kelsey may come off shy, but this senior thrower has nothing but big support for her team.
"I work really hard all the time," said Prena. "You can see that in academics. I have done really well and had a lot of success. Academics are where I can stand out. When it comes to track, for me to see other people have success is really rewarding and drives me to work harder."
Kelsey was a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten her sophomore and junior year. After completing her Bachelor of Arts degree in communications with a minor in theater in December 2012, she continued her education at Michigan State.
This fall, she became one of just a few student-athletes to be dual enrolled as a bachelor's and master's student in the department of communications. Kelsey's area of emphasis in her masters program is mass media and its uses in special needs education. She is set to finish the two-year master's program early, with her graduation date slated for December 2013.
Looking over a printed sheet of her college accomplishments in track & field, Kelsey quietly whispers, "They are little victories, but they are still victories."
In the 2013 Notre Dame Invitational, Kelsey made her first score for the team, a milestone four years in the making.
"When I knew I was actually going to score, I started to get a little teary-eyed," Kelsey said. "I finally scored for Michigan State. It has been a goal of mine since I was a baby. I go here because I have dreamt of being here my whole life. So to finally score, it was really emotional."
Kelsey once again hit another goal and personal best when she threw 13.69m (44-11) in the dual meet with Michigan, breaking her personal record by nearly two feet. Maybe sparked by a little sisterly competition, Kelsey just says, "I am really ambitious. If I have success in something I want to plow it over. Once I hit a breakthrough, I am just going."
As for what the future holds, the two sisters are looking forward to watching their littler brother throw for University of Oregon in the fall and keeping the collegiate success in the family.