40 in 40 - Kayla Skelly
Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, wmubroncos.com takes a look at 40 key moments/females in the history of women's athletics at Western Michigan University. Though the selection process, an effort was made to highlight a moment and player/coach from each of our current women's sports programs, as well pay respect to our women's legacy sports. A different feature will be released each of the 40 days, July 24 through Sept. 1.Kayla Skelly-Lankford
Women's Cross Country and Track & Field: 1982-86
WMU Athletic Hall of Fame: 1996
The 1980's produced some of the greatest moments and greatest student-athletes for the Western Michigan women's track & field and cross country programs. One of those outstanding student-athletes was Kayla Skelly.
Skelly, now Skelly-Lankford, remains one of them most decorated Broncos in the history of both programs. She came to Western Michigan in 1982 as a highly decorated distance runner from Midland, Mich. Skelly came from a running family with a father who coached a local Amateur Athletic Union team and five older sisters, who were also runners.
She came in with a laundry list of accomplishments from her days at Midland High School. Skelly won Class A state cross country titles in 1979, 1980 and 1981, also winning the mile and two-mile run championships her senior year in 1982. Hard work and dedication paid off early for Skelly as she had an immediate impact on both the cross country and track & field teams at Western Michigan.
Just a few months into her career with WMU she became the first Bronco in program history to finish runner up at the Mid-American Conference Cross Country Championship. The fact is, second place is the lowest that Skelly would ever finish in her four years at Western Michigan. In 1983 she became the first Bronco to be crowned the individual champion. In 1984 she once again finished in second place to WMU's Maggie Lille-Smith, but helped the team to its first ever MAC Championship. Skelly helped the cross country team another MAC Championship in 1985, where she was once again the individual champion. The 1985 cross country season was capped off by Skelly finishing in 28th overall at the NCAA Championships and becoming the program's first All-American. She ended her cross country career as a four-time All-MAC honoree.
Naturally the success in cross country carried over to the track for her. In her four years she won seven individual MAC titles and helped the Broncos to their only outdoor MAC Championship in 1985. Skelly won the 3,000 meter run three times and the 5,000 meter and 10k twice. After graduating she left WMU holding eight school records. She at one point held the indoor 1,500 meter, indoor 3,000 meter, indoor two mile, indoor three mile, outdoor 3,000 meter, outdoor 5,000 meter and outdoor 10k records. Her record time of 16:23.6 in the indoor 5,000 meter run still holds up to this day.
It wasn't all athletic success at Western Michigan for Skelly. The distance specialist also had tremendous academic success. Skelly was a three time Academic All-American, which included two second-team and one first-team selection in 1986. In 1986, her senior year, she was one of 40 WMU Presidential Scholars in bio-medical sciences and chemistry. In her sports information questionnaire she filled out as a freshman, under the question "What are your plans after graduation from WMU?" She wrote just two words, "Med School."
Her drive as an athlete and as a student led her to the Wayne State University School of Medicine, where she graduated in 1990.
Dr. Skelly was inducted into the Western Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame in 1996.