On July 26, 1997, nine-year old Kristine Kelly stepped on the starting blocks at the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation’s Games of Texas in the Aquatic Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In doing so, began a tradition that has weathered the test of time. Little did her, or her parents realize, that her first venture into the world competitive swimming would still be going strong 19 years later.
Kelly won three gold medals, and established three state records in her first Games of Texas. Now, 19 years later, the tradition of competing in the Games of Texas is still going strong. On Saturday, August 1, three generations of the Kelly family will take to the waters inside the Texas A&M Natatorium, competing in their 19th consecutive Games of Texas. In fact, a member of the Kelly family has medaled in every Games of Texas over those 19 years. This year Kristine, along with her six-year old daughter Kirstin, and her parents, Robert and Darla Kelly will all compete on this coming Saturday.
Kristine’s parents, Robert and Darla Kelly are long-time swimmers and swimming coaches. The elder Kellys are high school swimming coaches in the Pasadena Independent School District and coach the swimmers of the South Belt Area “All Stars” Swimming Team in Texas Amateur Athletic Federation (TAAF) competition.
This year, at the TAAF Region 14 Championships in Katy, the youngest Kelly, Kristine’s daughter Kirstin will be making her first trip to the elite summer competition. The youngest member of the Kelly clan will be competing in the six-year old and under division in the girl’s 100-yard freestyle relay. Her mother, Kristine will swim the women’s 50 and 100-yard freestyle races, along with the 50-yard backstroke and the 100-yard individual medley. The matriarch of the Kelly clan, Darla, will be competing in the 55-59 year old division in the 50-yard freestyle, 50-yard backstroke and the 50-yard breaststroke. Robert will compete in the 60-64 year old division in the 50, 100, and 200-yard freestyles and the 50-yard breaststroke.
Swimming is a family affair in the Kelly family. Kristine, who was a standout swimmer at Pasadena High School, swam collegiately at the University of Houston. She medaled and established state records in every TAAF Games of Texas from 1997 until 2014. She still holds TAAF region and state records in the 11-12, 13-14, 15-17, 18-24 and 25-29 year old age groups. She is a seven-time AAU Junior Olympic Games National Champion and a won a total of 10 medals at the 2005 National State Games in Hartford, Connecticut. She is also a competitive fin swimmer, holding three national record in the 100, 400, and 800-meter immersion events in addition to being a member of the United States national team that competed in the 2000 CMAS World Fin Swimming Championships in Majorca, Spain.
Mother Darla, who is the head swimming and diving coach at Pasadena High School is a long time masters swimmer, was selected as the 2012 National High School Coach of the Year by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). In addition, she has been selected numerous times as the district, regional and state high school Coach of the Year by the Texas Interscholastic Swimming Coaches Association and the NFHS.
Father Robert, who is the aquatic facilities manager for the Pasadena Independent School District and the head swimming and diving coach at both Sam Rayburn and Pasadena Memorial High School, started competing in swimming in his teens. He competed in the 1974 national championships and played water polo for the University of Texas at Austin from 1976-1978. He was selected All Southwest Conference water polo team as a goalkeeper in 1977-78, in addition to winning numerous medals and establishing numerous records at the Games of Texas and United States masters swimming competitions.
Swimming is definitely a big part of the Kelly family and with a great deal of skill, and a little luck, we will see the tradition continue for many years to come.