Athlete of the Week: Kali Waller sprints to State


Photo by Lifetouch

Sophomore Kali Waller has been breaking records since the day she set foot on WCCHS’s track.

By Leslie Fireman, Chronicle Advisor

In June 2021, then-freshman Kali Waller became the first girl from West Chicago Community High School to qualify for the State competition in track and field in 9 years. At the same time, she shattered 3 school records: in the 100 and 200-meter, as well as the 4×100 relay.

Waller holds up her multiple medals earned following a track meet. (Photo by Kali Waller)

Now, Kali has qualified for State again in not just one event, but two: the 100 and 200-meter races.

Kali’s mother, Stephanie Waller, said, “It was nothing short of amazing!”

“I am most proud of this meet because I had been running high 12s and was not too happy about them, since I previously ran 12.55 freshman year. So, when I saw the time of 12.38, it made me feel accomplished,” said Kali.

The athlete’s record-breaking season saw Kali shave her 100-meter time by .26 (two-tenths of a second), and her 200-meter time by a second. Waller was not happy with her recent times, however: “It’s not a PR. I’ll PR at State, hopefully.” 

Kali’s drive and determination to improve is evident.

“Kali is uncommonly talented, uncommonly coachable, and during competition she becomes a psycho, which has worked out pretty good so far,” said coach Tyler Belding.

As a fan of the track world, I know that Kali will break every record she wants here at WEGO before she leaves for college. Simply put, Kali is the real deal. What makes Kali Waller even cooler is that she is a super nice person,” said AVID teacher Rich Kost.

To say Kali had a good run at the Upstate Eight Conference championship meet on May 5 would be an understatement. Kali placed first in her primary events, the 100 and 200-meter races, and took second in the long jump with a height of 16′ 9.5.

In fact, Kali also increased her long jump distance dramatically in just one season. At the April 12 East Aurora-based meet, Kali was jumping at 15′ 6.25, but she broke the school record on May 12, coming in at a distance of 17′ 3.

At the UEC championship, the 4×100 relay team Kali helps form, alongside fellow sophomore Adeline Draper and juniors Katherine Rubio, Anna Lesny, took first-place.

Teammate and junior Anna Lesny hands off to Waller in the relay. (Photo by Lifetouch)

The following week, the group placed sixth at Sectionals, but dropped their time by an impressive .8.

Like every athlete, Kali has battled against tough opponents, and learned a few lessons along the way.

“Kali took an at-large entry at a meet at St. Rita HS against strong competition in April.  Everything that didn’t matter went wrong before she even ran.  The lines on the track were faded and she got confused on how to run in a straight line.  She said she felt off after the 100 and after discussion she agreed not to run the 200 and go home.  She has been a rocket ship to Mars ever since that meet,” said Belding.

“My biggest challenge of this season has been learning to accept the bad races, because everyone has their good and bad days,” said Kali.

Kali with her relay team members, Draper, Rubio and Lesny. (Photo by Tyler Belding)

Kali got her start in the third grade when a gym teacher asked her to run in a meet at the end of the year. When she reached middle school she knew she wanted to pursue track and field, a sport Kali enjoyed for its “competitiveness and the team’s bond.”

Watching her daughter evolve as an athlete over the past 7 years “has been incredible. Year over year, Kali set goals for herself and she’s trained hard and consistently to accomplish them. She definitely makes us proud,” said mom Stephanie.

Kali is not only a top athlete at WCCHS, but also a strong student who is enrolled in several advanced classes. According to her mother, Kali has considerable planning skills that help her “balance and manage her commitments.”

“Kali is truly one of the most hard-working people I know. I see Kali every day working hard in school, coming in early to weight train, going to practice, and doing it over again day after day. She is so dedicated and passionate about track! She sets so many goals for herself and works her hardest to reach them,” said friend and sophomore Gabrielle Christman.

Kali enjoys chemistry and can see herself working in pediatrics in the future.

Kali Waller is a talented student in the classroom as well as a gifted athlete on the track.  She possesses a balance between her schoolwork and the track in a unique way. I see the competitive athlete in the classroom and the studious worker on the track.  She studies her times, strategies, and competition while preparing for a meet. Moreover, she applies the exact same tactics in the classroom,” said Kost.

Kali is as devoted to her friends as she is to her academics and sport.

“She is so supportive, encouraging, and caring. I couldn’t be happier to call her my classmate and a friend,” said Christman.

Christman and many others will be cheering Kali on as she looks to place at State this week. She is “determined to perform to my best ability.”

“One thing I tell her when facing anything challenging is ‘You can do hard things!'” said mom Stephanie.

As Coach Belding explained, Kali “creates her own goals and writes them down” regularly. Some of those goals include setting personal records at the competition this weekend in Charleston, Illinois.

“I can’t think of a reason to put any limits on what she thinks she can achieve, so when she says she wants to eventually become a State champion and run at Iowa, all I can do is say ok and then make sure we support her as she continues to raise the bar on human performance for girls’ athletics here at WEGO,” said Belding.

West Chicago is rooting for you, Kali Waller!