Mundelein junior Kelsey Toland has always been comfortable in the air.
“I love the adrenaline rush,” she said. “If I could go skydiving now, I would definitely try it.”
For that, she’ll have to wait until she turns 18. In the interim, Toland feeds her adrenaline rush as a three-sport athlete. All of her sporting endeavors have a common theme — the air. In the fall, she dives for the Mustangs. During the winter, she is a top performer for the Mundelein gymnastics team coached by her mom, Nancy Toland. She closes out the high school season by pole vaulting and high jumping on the track team.
This summer, though, Kelsey Toland was faced with a difficult decision. She tore the meniscus in her left knee, an injury that required surgery. The rehabilitation ranges from four to six months. That meant her recovery would keep her grounded for at least one sports season, and possibly two.
After much thought, she elected to dive for the Mustangs this season and then have her surgery one week after the state meet. She will miss the gymnastics season and work toward making it back for the last half of the track season.
Toland has made the best of a difficult situation by diving at the highest level of her life. Toland, who finished 23rd at last year’s state meet, finished fourth at the competitive NSC tournament on Saturday. At almost every invitational, Mundelein swimmers hit the water knowing they already are on the scoreboard thanks to Toland.
“She gets overshadowed because we have such headline swimmers, but her ability to score points for us has been [crucial],” Mustangs swimming coach Rahul Sethna said. “It’s great knowing that we’ll be right up there with the leaders and don’t have a deficit to make up.”
Mundelein diving coach Emily Powers said Toland is fun to coach because of her drive to improve, combined with her fun-loving personality. Toland has been known to dance on the diving boards during down moments in practice.
“She’s happy-go-lucky and she listens well and really trusts what I’m telling her,” Powers said. “She wants to get better and better.”
At the conference meet, Toland debuted a new dive, a front 2 1/2. She struggled with it, as she did in practice much of the week. In fact, her black-and-blue arms were evidence of how hard she has worked on the dive in practice.
“I’ve needed a new dive with a higher degree of difficulty,” she said. “It’s a hit-or-miss dive for me right now, but we decided to go for it at conference so I would have [some experience] with it for sectionals.”