Sports Notes: Keelin Godsey ’06

If He Had a Hammer

Kelly Godsey’s application to Bates did not emphasize athletic ability because there wasn’t much to report. Instead, Godsey sent a tape of cello performances to the Admission office.

Among the turns taken over the following four years, Godsey chose not to focus on music at Bates, instead joining the track team. Flashes of talent that first winter included a Maine state record in the 20-pound weight. In the spring, despite never before even touching a hammer — a medieval-looking device comprising a four-kilogram ball, meter-length wire, and rigid handle — Godsey earned All-America honors.

Leading up to the 2006 NCAA outdoor championships, Godsey has won 13 All-America honors in the hammer, weight, and discus, including the 2005 NCAA title in the hammer. Godsey is easily among the top 10 collegiate U.S. throwers, regardless of division.

Keelin Godsey '06, photographed by Phyllis Graber Jensen.

Godsey changed directions again in fall 2005, beginning the accepted protocol for becoming transgendered. Formerly known as Kelly, Godsey asked friends, teammates, coaches, professors, and the College as an institution to refer to her as a male: Keelin. (The year included no hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery.)

In April, Godsey talked about his year with editor Jay Burns and sports information director Andy Walter.

Q: What’s been your athletic highlight?

A: Winning the NCAA hammer throw last spring. I beat my nemesis, Robin Jarocki of Wisconsin–Oshkosh. She’s a great athlete and competitor. [Jarocki and Godsey outthrow other athletes by 10 to 20 feet].

Q: In the athletic arena, did anything change after you self-identified as a man?

A: No. I am there to compete and score points for the team and to cheer on my teammates. I do not think about how I identify myself, and I sure can’t control how anyone thinks about me. At the indoor nationals, a runner from Wisconsin–La Crosse called me by the correct name and asked me how my meet was going. We talked track, yet by calling me “Keelin,” he acknowledged who I am. It felt good.

Q: What do you hope your Bates legacy will be?

A: I would rather be recognized as an amazing athlete rather than as someone who came out as transgendered their senior year. I worked very hard to get to the level and I don’t want that to be compromised.

Q: What has gone better than you expected?

A: The reaction of my team and my new coach [Jay Hartshorn]. I was really worried and I felt bad for Jay. Here she is coming in as a brand-new head coach and she has this to deal with. And I love my team. I didn’t want my decision to interfere with my relationship with them. And by supporting me, they just proved their worth again.

Q: You limited your interviews to two, with local media. Then a photojournalist did a story without your participation. What did you learn about how the media works?

A: I learned how persistent a reporter can be. I now have a lot of trouble reading stories about someone’s personal life. I’m a lot more critical, wondering how a writer gets personal details. I know it’s the media’s job, but in this case he made my life harder.

Q: Why don’t you want to speak to the media?

A: I’m a private person, and it’s been so hard to adjust to the fact that because of that story, people know very personal parts of my life. I have a facade of confidence, but there is very little behind it. I am not self-assured. So, media attention has made me feel less confident about myself. I have always been a voice at Bates. I am stubborn and blunt and I will stand up for being treated as equal. But I don’t have the knowledge to be an activist. I only know my story.

Q: At meets, do people come to watch you because…

A: …because I’m good. I’m not trying to sound cocky, but they come to see someone throw the hammer 200 feet. That’s a good feeling. They’re coming to see me throw, not to see the trans-boy compete.

Q: Why did you choose this year to come out as a transmale?

A: Bates seemed like a comfortable environment. And I was tired of everyone knowing this one person when I didn’t consider that person to be me. I’ve been out as gay since I was 16, but I have never felt comfortable as a woman. You start to lose track of who you are. In high school, I thought I was straight for awhile, because I was thinking like a male personality, and I liked girls, so in my mind I was straight.

Q: Have you enjoyed academic work?

A: I am an English major and I like it very much. I wrote my senior thesis, creative writing, with Rob Farnsworth. It was a great experience. But I wish I had spent more time in the sciences. I took almost all sciences last year — I want to attend graduate school in physical therapy — and I’ve never enjoyed myself more in the classroom, even though it was my hardest academic year. I like the problem-solving of science.

Q: How can you improve as a thrower?

A: I am a fast and powerful thrower but I need to become a better technical thrower. I can sit and watch video and pick out frame by frame in slow motion everything I’m doing wrong.

Q: What are your throwing goals?

A: I want to qualify for the USA Track and Field outdoor meet in June. This is where the Olympians are, and I hope to be taken on by a coach, because my ultimate goal is to get to the Olympic trials in 2008.

I also need to learn not to overtrain: running, practicing, lifting — I do too much. I just have to be moving all the time, and for me that means working out, and it takes a toll.

Q: Do you listen to music working out?

A: Yes, anything — except country. I play the cello, so sometimes I’m in the mood for the Bach cello suites.

Q: The cello?

A: I don’t have it at campus — my room isn’t big enough for it! — and I’m excited to play it at home over the summer. I love it, and I was pretty good in high school. I’d play at weddings with a quartet, in two different orchestras, high school and community, where I was the youngest by 10 years.

Q: So when you applied to Bates, your admissions hook was cello playing?

A: It definitely wasn’t athletics. I wasn’t good enough.