Family, friends and teammates packed into the Lenoir City High School Hall of Fame room on Nov. 20 to celebrate Caley Essie’s decision to continue track and field at Tennessee Wesleyan University.
“It means actually a lot because since sixth grade, I wanted to run in college,” Essie said. “I want to make something out of it. I don’t just want to do high school and stop. I want to be something, so I’m excited that I actually got to do it.”
Essie realized her potential early on.
“I think it’s just something that I tried and started,” she said. “I realized that I liked it. I like doing hurdles and jumping and stuff, and I wanted to stick with it because I was good at it.”
“When I first saw her back in sixth grade, I knew she was an athlete,” Jeff Kuhl, LCHS track and field coach, added. “I knew that she was going to place high in meets. Sixth grade in middle school is kind of hard because you’re running against eighth-graders right away, but she was right up in there. With those hurdles, she took to the hurdle. She had a great hurdle race, won most of them in middle school. I knew that was going to carry on.”
Essie starred in the hurdles and pentathlon throughout high school and was the only runner to advance to sectionals the last three years.
Kuhl expects Essie to go out on a strong note this spring.
“When you look at our team, we’ve been kind of up and down the last few years with retiring some people onto college and building up with new people, and she’s been a stabilizing force through all that,” Kuhl said. “Right now, we’ve got a group of young kids that could really blossom into something special. To know that she’s there, the kids look up to her. This is going to be a big powerful season for her, and we’re looking forward to it.”
Essie believes her time at LCHS has helped prepare her for the next step.
“He (Kuhl) is very supportive, and I’m glad he’s my coach,” she said. “I don’t think I would have been so hard on myself if he didn’t help push me, help motivate me.”
Essie’s familiarity with TWU’s track program played into her decision, as former teammates Madison Guider, Alexis Lankford and Staci Eubanks currently run for the Lady Bulldogs.
She plans to major in biology.
“I looked at their program, and I really like it,” Essie said. “I also know people there, so I’m not just going in not knowing anyone. I want to go into biology and they have a really program for that.”
Essie is expected to compete immediately as a hurdler and pentathlete at TWU.
“She’s going to be one that will mix it up right away,” Kuhl said. “She doesn’t back down in terms of competing, so she has a high standard for herself, and she’s going to bring that to her practices and to the meets. She’s going to expect to do well.”