Meet Your Neighbor: Kelly Chism-Essler has a lot on her plate

Tanner Cook • Apr 30, 2018 at 11:53 AM

Kelly Chism-Essler is a tough athlete who balances her own personal training with that of her swimmers at Milligan College.

A Las Vegas, Nevada, native, state champion and Junior Olympic standout, Chism-Essler  came to Milligan on a swimming scholarship in 2010 and eventually broke five school records. She placed in the top 32 at the NAIA national championships in two of the seven events in which she competed.

Then she decided to join the cycling team.

“I did a lot in college,” she said. “I did mountain biking for two years and then did cyclocross for two years. It wasn’t an easy transition to go from swimming to biking.”

Naturally, after a two-year stint as a nurse, she picked up triathlons.

“I ran cross country in high school and still do some local 5Ks,” she said.

She has completed the Raleigh Half Iron-Man, which consists of a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride and 13.1-mile run. She has also done two ultramarathons and competed in the Olympic distance at the triathlon in 2015.

“At Raleigh, my goal was just to finish,” she said. “It didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would, though. I was able to run four days after that.

“For me, the cycling is still kind of hard because that’s my least-familiar discipline. Running and swimming are pretty easy, even though I can get injured easily while running.”

She said she plans to do the national age group sprint triathlon in Cleveland, Ohio, this year and also wants to complete a 50-mile race.

On the coaching side, the Milligan Buffaloes had a banner year in the pool under the second-year head coach, with new school records and freshman standout Margaret Halloran racking up three All-American honors at the national meet.

Chism-Essler was also named the Appalachian Athletic Conference Coach of the Year after taking both teams from near last in the standings to near the top.

“I think the culture is changing,” she said. “When I was here, the swim team wasn’t very good and it’s cool now to see the respect that we’re getting around campus and the recognition is awesome.

“I think that both teams will be near the top eventually and we could have a few national champions in the coming years. We’re full of youth and there’s a lot of potential.”