ASU's McKenna Taking The Next Step

By Ann Killion

Arizona State's Kelcy McKenna has to anticipate. To see what's coming next. To adjust to new strategy. To think one step ahead.

Sure, she needs all that ability as the 19th-ranked singles tennis player in the nation, playing for Arizona State, currently ranked No. 15 as a team. On April 8, McKenna defeated USC's Maria Sanchez, the top singles player in the nation, and closed out her regular-season senior campaign a day later with a win over her UCLA opponent.

But McKenna also found she needed all those athletic skills as a student elementary school teacher.

"It was like competing in sports," McKenna said. "What little point can I win today? How can I be creative and new with this lesson plan? How to anticipate problems before they arise?"

McKenna completed her degree in elementary education in December. To do so, she had to student-teach for a semester, which is why the fifth graders at Waggoner Elementary School in Tempe, Ariz., have become such big Sun Devils tennis fans.

"They come out and watch me play tennis," McKenna said. "Some of them really got into it.They're all very sporty."

McKenna came to ASU from North Bend, Ore., where she was a standout volleyball and tennis player. She captained her high school volleyball team to a state championship.

"I miss playing volleyball a lot," she said. "I miss how it would break up the seasons."

She's played only tennis at Arizona State, but determined to finish in three-and-a-half years so that she could do her student-teaching in a fall semester so it wouldn't interfere with her sport, she kept plenty busy.

McKenna's parents are both teachers. Her father Matt, now retired, taught high school math and physical education. Her mother Patti splits her job between teaching first grade and being her school's vice principal.

But that didn't mean McKenna felt she was destined for a career in education.

"Definitely not," she said. "I was interested in becoming a dentist. But I pursued a few different classes, and Arizona State has such a great education degree."

McKenna, who is taking some graduate classes and other classes for pure enjoyment, is enjoying everything about her final weeks at Arizona State. Her next competition will be the Pac-10 Championships in May.

"They always tell you that four years go by so fast," she said. "And it's true. This has been the best senior year you could ask for."

McKenna has the work experience, the degree and aspirations to eventually work in athletic administration. But she plans to give herself at least a year on the tennis circuit after her collegiate career ends.

"I'm going to play as many tournaments as I can afford," she said. "And I hope I'll find a part time job that lets me play tennis."

So if any schools in Tempe are looking for a substitute teacher, one who's quick on her feet, McKenna will be available soon.

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