Ky-lee Perry: ‘Cry Out’ What You Can’t Control ‘Then Focus Forward’

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Ky-lee Perry is an NC State senior sprinter. Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

Like most elite athletes, Ky-lee Perry is used to being in control.

The NC State sprinting sensation has worked extremely hard to be able to control every aspect of her race, but controlling everything in her power in and out of the water.

The coronavirus has taken all of that control away.

It took away the control she had over finishing her college career on her own terms. It took away her control over being ready for the 2020 Olympics — while it took away control of athletes around the world.

Now, Perry is in an unfamiliar place. She doesn’t control her own career, her own school or even where she can work out and train.

“I gave myself a day or two to feel sorry about what happened and cry it out. Then you come to grips with not being able to control it. And it would have been awful if one swimmer got it at NCAAs. You think about the chance at winning an NCAA title, cry it out,” Ky-lee Perry told Swimming World. “So I have been trying to fix that mindset. I am happy with where my life is right now. I am going to stay focused on how I can move forward.”

It has been frustrating, but there is one thing Perry is still very much in control of: Her dreams.

Perry was planning on aiming for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at this summer’s trials. She has the same goal, though it is now next summer’s trials.

“As of right now, I’m doing my best to stay active and work out. I am definitely going to continue to train for 2021,” Perry said. “If things don’t work out with the NCAA granting winter sports seniors their eligibility back, I will hopefully go pro and join an ISL team. I want to swim for as long as I can.”

That is how a lot of NCAA senior swimmers feel, but they will not all continue to swim for an extra year to train for the Olympics. Of course, they are not all in Perry’s position either. She was a contender for an NCAA title and has a shot at making the Olympic team in the sprints. Even if she didn’t make it this summer, being an elite sprinter would give her a good chance of being a part of the International Swimming League as a professional.

There is plenty of upside and hope for Perry.

It didn’t seem that way a couple of weeks ago when her senior NCAA championships vanished. She then waited, like all elite swimmers, to see if the trials and/or the Olympics would be postponed. That is a lot of waiting for someone who is used to going at all times.

“It all happened so fast. One minute we were fine, the next minute everything was canceled,” Ky-lee Perry said. “The emotions started pouring out and it was a rough couple of days. Braden (Holloway) told us in the nicest way possible that it was canceled. He was very emotional and everyone else was too, especially the seniors. We came together. We had to take some time to acknowledge what happened. We were there putting our blood sweat and tears there to show what we could do. That is the biggest upset. It is definitely going to push a lot of people on the team who are competing. We understand why they canceled everything — they had to.”

It was especially difficult for Perry, who had fought her way back from multiple injuries to re-emerge as an elite force in sprinting.

“When I first heard, I was pretty upset. I really felt like my heart was breaking. I only had two years without injuries. This year I wanted to do so many things. I got hurt (knee stress fracture) and had to back off then go forward. ACCs wasn’t my full taper meet. They wanted to see where I was at and what I could handle. I am just trying to keep my head up. That is all you can do. This week I have taken a little step back to fully mentally reset after what happened.”

Now that there is finally closure for Olympic-aspiring athletes, they can reset that focus and not be so worried about not having control of the day-to-day.

“Now it is just … What do I need to do to better my time and perform at the Olympic trials?” she said. “I am just trying to stay active on things I can do.”

For a sprinter like Perry, core workouts can make a huge difference.

“Working on my abs and running. We do dry land basic ab workouts. Russian twists, burpees. I have been trying to still do sit-ups and pushups. I am also trying to do some of my rehab stuff for me knee,” she said. “It is about getting your hand on the wall first and perfecting everything in a sprint. One thing could cost you the race. You just want to put it together and have a chance to make that team.

“I have definitely noticed how powerful my stroke has been. I am getting that perfect as long as I am working my legs. The core is the main thing in swimming, It works everything. Once you lose that, you slow down. I have a strong core, but it could always be stronger. That is how I am going to get where I want to be.”


Ky-lee Perry; Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

Finally being healthy will be something Perry can hopefully take into 2021 with confidence.

“I haven’t had good turns with my knee, so long course training is going to be really good,” she said. “I definitely noticed how everything affected things after my injury. I didn’t do all of that muscle work because of the injury and I was so far behind. But my powerful strokes with my pulling balanced that out. I could out-swim people, but with the strong start and turn, that will be huge.”

Getting past the devastation of opportunities lost has been the biggest victory for Perry as she continues to follow her dreams.

“All you can do is stay motivated,” Ky-lee Perry said. “I didn’t want to be the person that was angry and pushing people away. I could feel sorry for myself or cry about it and pick myself up and use my team to help push me. I did that for my injuries, too. Life isn’t fair and everyone has adversity. I won’t be defined by what I would have done at NCAAs. It is how you deal with it adversity defines you as a person.”

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Ky-lee Perry; Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

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