From starting to race in high school to now crossing the finish line of their college career, seniors Sean and Kelsey Graff have made it through every checkpoint to end their final cross-country season as team captains for the Mountain Lions men’s and women’s programs.
Dating since their freshman year of high school, Sean and Kelsey got engaged and locked in their promises to each other before their sophomore year of college.
Sean started his journey with cross country in seventh grade and track and field in eighth grade, while Kelsey began running track and field in seventh grade and started cross country in her freshman year of high school.
Sean described his transition from high school to the collegiate level as feeling like he was participating in a completely different sport. Kelsey said COVID-19 made it an easier transition from high school to college because there were less meets. It gave them the opportunity to adjust quickly and become closer with the team.
“I feel like, for a lot of people, their experience in a college sport might not be exactly how they were picturing it and being able to share what it’s like and to encourage the guys that are new on the team.” Sean said.
Both of UCCS’ cross-country teams voted on who they wanted to become captains, and Sean and Kelsey accepted the opportunity hoping to become team role models. “I just thought it was a good opportunity to help out some of the younger guys and just kind of be there for them and be able to share your experience,” Sean said.
Kelsey was voted a team captain by her peers for the first time as a senior.
“Being able to share your experience from the past years with the younger girls on the team and continuing that team culture and getting advice from captains that have been there in the previous years is super cool,” said Kelsey.
Sean also had the chance to compete with both his older and younger brothers throughout high school and college. Initially, he competed alongside Evan Graff for a number of seasons, and he has one season left to compete with his younger brother, Jonas Graff.
Sean mentioned that his time running with Evan allowed him to become acquainted with the team prior to competing, creating stronger bonds. Sean and Jonas share a supportive dynamic, ensuring that competition doesn’t affect their relationship, much like Sean and Evan maintained while competing against each other.
Head coaches for men’s and women’s cross-country Mark Misch and Corey Kubatzky encourage everyone to be there for each other outside of practice, emphasizing that it’s important to be present, enjoy the moment and not take the season for granted.
Sean and Kelsey are set to conclude their senior UCCS cross-country season this fall, before the track and field season in the spring. Both athletes will not be making a return for another season as graduate students, nor are they taking the option to return as redshirt seniors.
Photos courtesy of Sean and Kelsey Graff.