"One Last Roar" is a series that will recognize the accomplishments of the senior student-athletes at Mount Holyoke College graduating during the 2020-21 academic year. From now until May, read about our senior student-athletes as they reflect on their careers as members of Lyons Nation. Make sure to check out Mount Holyoke College Athletics on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to see photos of their top memories with their teammates over the past four years.
Senior Ireland Clare Kennedy (Oakland, Calif.) a French major and Chemistry minor on the Premedical track is a dual-sport student-athlete on the Mount Holyoke College basketball and track and field teams who will graduate at the completion of the Spring 2021 semester.
As a member of the basketball team, Clare Kennedy started in 12 of the 41 games that she played in through three seasons with the Lyons. Clare Kennedy, who was also named a captain of the Mount Holyoke College basketball program, averaged 18.5 minutes per game over the course of her career, and scored a career-best 13 points versus St. Joseph's University on November 16, 2018. Clare Kennedy, also a captain for the track and field team, is ranked second all-time in the Javelin with a mark of 33.44 meters from 2019. She also qualified for the 2018 New England DIII Outdoor Track and Field Championships in the 4x400m relay. Clare Kennedy served as an Associate Representative for the New England Men's and Women's Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) on the National Division III Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) from 2019-2021 and as a basketball representative for Mount Holyoke SAAC from 2018-2020. She is also a member of the Student-Athlete Leadership Team (SALT).
From Head Mount Holyoke Basketball Coach, Jackie Ward:
"Ireland has been an integral member of the basketball team and an enthusiastic ambassador for the athletic department for four years. Her energy is infectious and her spirit is unparalleled. She is a servant leader who always puts the needs of her teammates above her own, and she has been a phenomenal role model for our younger players. Although she has been tested physically throughout her career, she remains resilient with an incredibly positive attitude. She is fiercely loyal to her teammates, her coaching staff, and her department, and it has been an honor to coach her!"
From Head Mount Holyoke Cross Country and Track and Field Coach, Chris Kibler:
Overall, share a few sentences about your time as a student-athlete at Mount Holyoke College. How has your experience as a student-athlete helped develop you into the person you are today?
I always dreamed of playing sports in college, but never did I think it would be basketball, and especially not track- this was a new sport for me! I've grown considerably since my first year in the way I communicate with my coaches and my own self-reflection. I have a much better grasp of what it means to be a teammate, how to show work ethic no matter your situation, and how much love for the game we all have. These have all translated beyond the track and court. Holding a leadership position at the national level as a representative for so many student-athletes showed me the power and responsibility of my voice, and is an experience I carry with great respect. We always learn lessons from our sports, and the high caliber of performance in and out of the classroom has shown me how to have confidence in myself, and know where my strengths lie. Growth is a process, and I can sure tell I've got a lot more to learn in the rest of this year and beyond, but the foundation is set.
What were some of your favorite memories as a member of your team?
I definitely cherish a lot of memories from both teams, but some of the favorite memories I have from basketball is J-term. That's a broad brush for sure, but cooking with the team, "eat, sleep, basketball" was the best time I had and was really such a rush to be able to embrace the harsh winter every year as a California girl. It made me really appreciate the moments I had with the team upon returning from study abroad my junior year as well. For the track team, I look back fondly on so many meets, since this sport was so new to me, everything was a learning experience. Overall though, I would say the post-meet dinners in blanch make me really chuckle. The "post-meet hangover", where we're all a little sunburnt, exhausted, and hungry hits a little different, and makes everything very funny which really bonds you as a team. The event groups that were separate during the day get to come together again and talk about how their races/throws/jumps went and there was always a lot of community in that.
What are your plans following graduation?
After Mount Holyoke, I plan to take the MCAT and enter medical school through the NAVY, eventually setting my eyes on a field of pediatrics or neonatal medicine, but the career will take me where it may!
Who have been some of your biggest supporters during your time at Mount Holyoke College? This can be anyone (i.e. family, friends, professors, coaches, etc.)
If I had it my way, I'd do an entire paper just on this question….so many people have vastly contributed to my career at MHC. Currently though, the first faces to come to mind are the athletic training staff. I never would have considered myself "injury prone" but looking back on the college years, maybe I'd change my tune. Although some may say this is unfortunate, the experiences and lessons I've learned on the sidelines were as important as a PR or career-high score in a game. Ellen Perrella, Catie LeBlanc and Micah Dion (no longer at MHC but was a huge support) have been by my side through head-scratching injuries during these four years. "You're a conundrum Ireland" was a phrase I'd hear, laying on one of those blue tables. I've had special moments from these wonderful people- a piggyback and hug from Ellen with countless stories to cheer me up, music selections to put us in the mood with Catie, and nerding out about rock climbing with Micah. No matter the situation, and even on the toughest days I'd leave the ATR with a smile, a fist bump, and encouragement to keep my head up because I know they had my back even when my body seemed not to.
On the beam of support and encouragement leads me to think of my coaches. It's not always easy to have coaching changes during your path, but I've seen how much a program can change and build from new energy and phenomenal coaches. My first year I was brought off the ground by the coaching staff I was initiated with, but sophomore year onward was a game-changer. My sophomore year we knew there was something special about Coach Ward that would change our program for the better. Whenever I stepped on that court to play, I knew I was going to be challenged to push the boundaries of my perceived abilities. Coach was always there to listen to. Being injured for a lot of her seasons meant that I was frequently on the side or not practicing at 100%. I'll always remember one conversation that changed how I saw my performance that validated how I was feeling, and I never entered her office knowing I wouldn't be heard. She sees the best in her players and brings out the most not only on the court but in our lives and hearts, and I cherish my relationship with her. I know I'll always be reminded to "control the controllables" and keep my chin up. Coach Barrett knew how to get me out of my head too, and I would always hear her voice out on the court with a call, correction, or feedback when I needed it most. Through the "Ireland stories", "Kermit", and the first day of debatable shorts weather, the basketball coaching staff never failed to give me a brighter day.
Turning to track, Coach Kibler and Coach Dumas (Dumas is no longer at MHC but was my javelin coach my sophomore and junior year) were immense supporters. Coach Dumas brought my technique and performance to a whole new level and Coach Kibler made me stronger than I ever imagined in that Lyon's Den. As the injuries crept in, it was like I never missed a beat, and they shaped my program to fit my abilities, which was huge as an individual. I'll never forget the pride they both felt for me my sophomore year after I PR'd in my last meet before deciding to stop and get an injection for my injury...I got an enormous hug from both coaches and was told how proud I should be of myself, and how much further I have to go in these next years.
Last but in no way least are my teammates and professors. The teammates I've had I see as family. They've always been at my side when things were at their hardest, and have shown me the value of being on the sidelines. This holds true on the opposite end too. If I ever reach out to any of my teammates, without question I'll hear back and have someone to lean on. These bonds are for "lyfe" and I couldn't imagine my career without the friendships I've made with my teammates, and teammates across sports. My professors, especially those who have been able to attend games and meets are incredibly supportive and always invested in my life outside of the classroom. When I had a concussion, nobody questioned what I needed, and always made me laugh during office hours, even sharing a passing chocolate now and then. Their passion shows how much they care about our success as students and as individuals which speaks volumes to why I chose a DIII institution, but truly shows me how special MHC is.
What is your favorite Mount Holyoke tradition?
I absolutely love everything we do with the class colors and mascots. I went to an all-girls Catholic high school, so we had songs and uniforms and a lot of the same traditions I cherish here, but this is something that you see beyond someone's OneCard color. "The great divide" in the library and everyone sporting their colors, yelling loudly at Convocation is unique to how much pride we can all have as a school. I think it's fun to share stories with alumni and see if you match up with their color depending on your year!
Any words of advice you have for the future student-athletes of Mount Holyoke College?
I would say to recognize your value. Mount Holyoke is a prestigious college, and you are a student-athlete on top of that. That in itself is an important fact to understand. I'll never forget my first year SGA President making her speech at convocation saying "You belong here", and realizing how true that was- I still have the newspaper clipping! Jumping off of that- your value as a member of any team goes vastly beyond physical ability. You may not be the best on the team, but you can work the hardest, yell the loudest, and still contribute more than you know. Being on the side so much made me see how much I could bring. When I felt bad that I was doing nothing in a boot on the side in my sweats while the team ran spirits in the gym, I would do planks, pushups, anything to let them know I was with them- yelling my head off the whole time. This might not be your speed, but find what you bring. In track when I was done after that third meet my sophomore year so I decided I'd be the unofficial team photographer and used that as a connection to the team. All in all, appreciate your value and find it- in or out of the sport.