Kaylee Brown signs with Kennesaw State

Among those on hand at Gordon Lee High School to watch senior Kaylee Brown sign on to continue her track career at Kennesaw State University was Leann and Shawn Brown, along with Gordon Lee assistant track coaches Derek Roberts and Trevor Guinn, Gordon Lee head track coach Dan Roberts, Eric Bishop, Gordon Lee principal Michael Langston and Gordon Lee athletic director Todd Windham.

It didn't take Kaylee Brown long to find her niche as a track athlete and it didn't take very long for college recruiters to find her either.

The two-sport Gordon Lee senior athlete will be looking to continue her fast track to success at Kennesaw State University next year after signing a letter of intent to compete for the NCAA Division I Owls in a ceremony on Thursday.

"(This day) means a lot," said Brown. "I'm really excited to see what all I can do at Kennesaw State. The coach down there sees a lot of potential in me and I'm very excited."

Despite not beginning her track career until the eighth grade, she won an area championship in the pole vault, took second in the high jump and finished fourth in the 400 meters one year later as a freshman.

She went on to win the pole vault at sectionals and at the state finals that year, clearing 10-foot-7 to break a school-record that had stood since 1979. She also cleared 5-2 in the high jump, but had to settle for second place on a tiebreaker.

Then as a sophomore, she raised bar even higher, literally and figuratively.

Between the pole vault, the high jump and the 400, Brown had 22 top-three finishes during the season with 17 individual wins. She won the state high jump title at 5-5 and cleared 10-9 in the pole vault to break her own mark and win her second straight state title in the event.

That performance also helped Gordon Lee secure the girls' Class A Public School overall team title.

"(KSU) is getting a good one," said longtime Gordon Lee track coach Dan Roberts. "She's been very special since her freshman year when she just started beating everybody right off the bat. She won some big track meets as a freshman and she has continuously worked hard and wanted to get better.

"She's been able to get some assistance with some high-level coaches (outside of school) and it's paying off for her."

"I think (track) just came easily for me," said Brown, who shared Walker County Girls' Track Athlete of the Year honors as a freshman and again as a sophomore. "I really love the sport and I love all of my friends and coaches."

Brown said one of the reasons she selected Kennesaw State was the team's associate head coach, Jaymes Talkington, who himself was a jumper for the University of Wyoming.

"I really feel like I can talk to him and he seems like a really good coach," explained Brown, who will only compete in pole vault and high jump in college. "He's coached a lot of really good athletes, including All-Americans.

"Plus, the campus is beautiful and I've already talked to some of the other pole vaulters I'll be rooming with. The athletes' dorm is very nice. I feel safe there and (the campus) feels a lot like Gordon Lee now."

Brown will also be looking to help the GLHS competition cheerleading squad continue its state championship streak next month and says that the tumbling and strength required in cheerleading has benefited her greatly in track.

Roberts said he's anticipating seeing what type of numbers Brown can put up this spring, adding that she has continued to train hard in the offseason to make up for the disappointment of last year's COVID-cancelled season.

"We were looking forward to seeing the growth that's usually made between (a track athlete's) sophomore and junior years because it's usually a big one," he explained. "Unfortunately, we didn't get to see that, but she kept her confidence up.

"In the last year, she's grown a little taller, so I'm expecting her to be able to go a little higher. She's definitely stronger and that's big for her events because in the pole vault in the high jump, you have to be strong."

As for Brown, she says she is eyeing at least a mark of 5-8 in the high jump, which would break the current school record by two inches, and that she's also setting a goal of clearing at least 11 feet in the pole vault.

Brown plans to major in business and biology with future plans to become an orthodontist.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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