Ky-lee Perry, NC State Sprinting Toward Big Finish

Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

When Ky-lee Perry needs a boost she goes back to the same quote.

“You are the only one you can limit your greatness.”

The quote has motivated Perry through injuries, disappointments and driven the NC State sprinter to huge success in the pool.

“People get into that doubtful mindset. That quote has really got me through everything. I have come out stronger than ever because of an amazing team who supported me,” Ky-lee Perry told Swimming World.

Right now, that quote is helping Perry push through a knee injury.

“This season has had a major obstacle with a knee injury. Because of all of those steps, I had to work closely with the staff to see what I wanted to do toward the end of the year. It was one day in dry land. Coming off of WUGs, I didn’t get as much of a break as my body probably needed. I did a jump and landed the wrong way. Since then, I have had some up and down battles with it. It is similar to my sophomore year when I had an elbow injury,” she said. “I was anchoring a relay and I hyper-extended my elbow on a finish. I was out a month and that was a big battle that pushed me to keep moving forward.”

But, while the latest injury has slowed Perry down, it hasn’t stopped her. She is looking to build on her All-American performances at last year’s NCAA championships in both the 50 and 100 free, as well as relays.

It wasn’t just Perry, either. The Wolfpack had a breakout performance to a seventh-place finish. It was important after the disappointing finish two years ago when they were 18th. But the Wolfpack are aiming for a top-five finish this season, which would be a program high.

“Last year was a huge improvement and a big deal for us. Two years ago, we wanted to move forward, but didn’t. We bounced back from that last year. It has really carried the momentum into this year,” Perry said.

One of the biggest things that helped the team transformation was the relay chemistry.

“I love relays. It is a ream effort. You all come together in a relay. When you have four amazing girls that can come together, swim lights out and post something that fast, it is amazing. No matter how tired you are, you want to keep going for your team,” Ky-lee Perry said. “Coming from a high school club team we didn’t focus on relays, so coming into my freshman year was a big change. I was able to have coaches help me push through that change and relay exchanges. To have that perfect exchange really goes a long way.”

Perry watches each relay unfold before taking her spot as anchor for most of them.

“Ky-lee is a huge relay swimmer. It is very good having her on the team,” sophomore breaststroker Sophie Hansson said. “She is one of our captains and really leading our team toward our goal.”

That is a factor that motivates Perry on a daily basis.

“As a captain, I make it my job to put the team on my back,” she said. “So far, we have had a really good season and you can tell we are more dedicated than ever before. I think we are in a great position and can do some things that haven’t been done at NC State.”

Perry is hoping to reach some new thresholds as well. Those started last summer when she claimed the gold medal in the 50-meter freestyle (25.08) at the World University Games in July.

“That was an amazing experience. I have always dreamed of representing USA and going to the Olympics. Qualifying for WUGs was amazing. I started crying because I was so happy for reaching one of my goals of representing the U.S. Internationally,” Perry said. “It was an amazing atmosphere. I will never forget that moment because it was such a  huge leap forward in my career. I walked onto that podium and was shaking a little bit. But I was just so proud of what I did. I loved every second of it.”

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Ky-lee Perry; Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics

Perry is hoping more of those experiences are on the horizon in an Olympic year.

Four years ago, she entered the Olympic trials in 2016 as a high school senior, just looking to get the experience of competing is such a huge meet.

This year, it’s different.

“In 2016, it was going for the experience. As a senior in high school, I was nervous and let that get to me. But I have gotten more confidence every year and going into this year, I am way more confident. I know my experience has gotten me to where I want to be. If it doesn’t, I have four more years to keep going,” she said.

It is too much of a dream to give up on if she doesn’t make it this year, she said.

“It started becoming a dream of mine to go pro and represent USA. I will not be afraid to dream big. Simone (Manuel) was probably like I can beat them and I will beat them … Not wondering about it,” Perry said. “It is tough, 50s are always so close. Every little thing you do has to be done right or you won’t win. So you need to focus but also stay calm. If you don’t stay calm, it won’t work. I have messed up in races and it has cost me first place, but I choose not to let that affect me. It helps to have that mindset in every single race you do as a sprinter.”

Olympics or not, Perry is looking forward to the possibility of swimming professionally in the newly formed International Swimming League — something based on sprinting.

“The ISL now is basically made for a swimmer like me,” she said.

But she has bigger goals in mind first, and while she is working toward them, she is hearing the words: “You are the only one you can limit your greatness.”

“I think about the end goal every single day. Looking back at the past four years, I have accomplished so much. But I know I am not done. I want to continue to move forward and see where it takes me,” Ky-lee Perry said. “I am not afraid to dream big and I use my goals to push me farther than I ever have before. I am going to use the set back to fuel the fire.”

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Ky-lee Perry; Photo Courtesy: NC State Athletics