“I would say my first year was a little frustrating, I just learned everything. I knew I had to be patient and I still celebrated the small wins,” she said. “I remember arriving, I didn’t know how to do hurdles, so I had to learn, start from scratch. I was losing most of my runs, but I knew that and was patient with myself because I was like, most of these girls went through high school and threw and I didn’t. I’ve learned to be patient, but definitely more in the last two years because of COVID, all the obstacles we’ve had to face.
She learned to transfer that to other aspects of the university. The academic toll was new to her, so patience helped her. It was the same to balance the registers of athletics, school work and social life. It ripples through every avenue she takes as a person, so breaking down five or eight events and getting good at all of them seems like a natural fit.
She has teammates who are sprinters who can concentrate in the area. Some friends can throw objects, some can jump over objects, and some can run very far. She needs to learn how to do all of this, do it with the same focus as them, but pack it into a much shorter workout time of 20-30 minutes per event.
Baily and Keller say there are times when you can get lost in the shuffle if you allow it. For the coach, he avoids the error of neglecting a force. For Keller, she doesn’t let her mind drift away from the event she’s working on in the present.
Part of the magic comes from training, especially skills that translate to all levels. One in particular helped Keller steer her towards the goals she set at the start of the year. They targeted him from day one and never backed down.
“Lexie’s biggest weakness was her foot contact. She’s a toesy runner,” Baily said. “We’re cleaning that up, now we were faster, we’re putting more force into the ground and we’re going to learn how to open that hip joint because you can’t do it with your toes here. It makes her better all around. We really focus on training the athlete as a whole.
Clean that up, his high jump and long jump approaches are better. She is faster in races than she has to run, including hurdles. Which – pun intended and literally – was a major hurdle for her to clear.
And she did. So much so that she is not only competent as a multi, but in an open event. She will head to the championships ranked third in the 60 meter hurdles.
“Going into my first races in college, I was last,” she said. “I was training with my teammates, and I had good teammates in hurdles, and they had been doing it for so much longer, I don’t know how I’m going to be able to run that well. Just recently hit a PR and ran an 8.5, and kinda surprised myself there. I look back and I was running 10.5 my freshman year.
It was not just patience, but perseverance, that teammate Jordan Lanning came to admire in Keller. Unlike her sparring partner, Lanning came to Colorado State having already competed in several events as a prep. Even still, she found there was so much more to learn about it at the college level.
She gleans a lot of Keller from watching her in training, and a lot of that is physical. There are always the mental components, and the discussions they have also help illuminate it.
“It’s very, very beneficial because she leads by her actions in what she does and her determination,” said Lanning, who is the fourth seed in the pentathlon this week. “That’s something I learned from her is that if you put in the work the results will come. That’s an important thing I learned from her.
“That’s how determined she is and how confident she is. We’ll go on bus rides together and explain the scores we want to achieve in a meeting. She won’t limit herself. She’ll set those goals , and she knows she can achieve those goals. That’s one thing that’s great about her.
Again, that took time too.
At the start of the season, Baily hit her with a conviction he carried. He estimated that there were not five or six athletes in the country better than her at the pentathlon. Period.
“He said that at the start of the year and I really thought he was lying,” Keller said. “I said, ‘That’s not true.’ I think now I’ll put myself up there. I know what I’m capable of and I’m improving every week. I think I can compete if I can do it.
Despite what she believed about herself on a national, local level, she was held in high esteem. She aimed for the school record in the pentathlon (held during the indoor season), and the first weekend in February she made it her own, scoring 4,105 points at the New Mexico College Classic, the same venue as the conference championships. .