State, national awards for Central Catholic ‘gentle lioness’

By: Tom Dermody

BLOOMINGTON — Humble, kind, spiritual.

Aggressive, competitive, tough.

Two different people?

No, those divergent labels were all used this week to describe one senior student at Central Catholic High School. But there is a single word that unites the many facets of Kelly Curran.


DURING A 48-hour period last week, Curran’s winning ways earned state and then national recognition.

On Saturday morning, her fiercely competitive nature took over as she used a strong finishing kick at the end of a three-mile race to claim her second consecutive Illinois High School Association Class A cross country championship. She topped 260 other state finalists with a time of 17 minutes, 46 seconds.

Two days later, Curran’s humble side was evidenced when she learned — in a surprise announcement made with all Central Catholic students assembled for lunch — that she had been named one of 12 national finalists for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.

“I’m shocked,” said a wide-eyed Curran after receiving a medal from Wendy’s officials. More than 54,000 student-athletes nationwide had applied for the award recognizing scholarship, athletics, and citizenship. Curran and her parents — Mike and Colleen Curran, members of Holy Trinity Parish — will be flown to New York City in December for a three-day weekend that will also include witnessing the awarding of the Heisman Trophy for the nation’s top collegiate football player.

In addition, Central Catholic received a $2,000 prize and a crew from sports network ESPN was to visit the school on Wednesday to film a profile of Curran.

They should have no trouble filming Kelly’s good side. She has many of them.

“KELLY EMBODIES everything we want our students to embody — academics, athletics, and deeply concerned about her spiritual life,” said Father Patrick Henehan, chaplain at Central Catholic. “She wants to progress in her spiritual life as much as academics or athletics.”

That’s a lot of progress. The state champion athlete (she also owns a state track title in the 3,200 meters and is a guard on the Saints’ girls basketball team) is also ranked right at the top of her class academically. She is president of the Interact Club, a student service group affiliated with Rotary.

“She puts it all together,” continued Father Henehan. “It’s great to see a student who deserves such an honor receive it. She’s getting everything she deserves.”

JOY ALLEN, principal of Central Catholic, said that when Curran competes “her gentle spirit makes way for a lioness.” Allen’s voice broke with emotion Monday as she called Curran forward to receive the Wendy’s Heisman medal.

“It’s a very big day at Central Catholic High School,” said Allen, who praised Curran’s achievements and commitment, including to community service activities.

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