Johnsburg 2010 graduate Kelly Blackhurst (front right), a now field hockey player for Skidmore College, battles a Middlebury College player for ball control during a recent game. Blackhurst was honored recently as a top field hockey player in the nation. Photo provided
Kelly Blackhurst, a 2010 graduate of Johnsburg High School, has been honored as a top college field hockey player in the U.S.
Last week, Blackhurst, a Skidmore College senior, was named the 2013 National Player of the Year by the Longstreth/National Field Hockey Coaches’ Association.
Blackhurstis the first field hockey player ever at the college to achieve this prestigious award — the one athlete chosen from among about 4,500 players on about 180 Division III field hockey teams.
Blackhurst played varsity field hockey for Johnsburg from eighth grade through her senior year. She continued in field hockey Skidmore, starting every game since she joined the Thoroughbreds as a Freshman.
Blackhurst scored 32 goals and tallied 15 assists for 79 performance points during the 2013 season.
Her efforts were rewarded with the title of 2013 Liberty League Offensive Player of the Year.
She led the Thoroughbreds to a 19-4 overall record, the 2013 Liberty League Championship, and a trip to the NCAA Final Four.
Over her college career, Blackhurst scored 105 goals and 54 assists, tallying 264 career points. She is the all-time leading scorer at Skidmore and in the Liberty league. She also holds the Skidmore record for the most game-winning goals (20), the most points in a season (79), the most goals in a season (32) and the most game-winning goals in a season (8).
Blackhurst is a four-time Liberty League First Team selection, a three-time Longstreth/NFHCA All-American selection, and a two-time Longstreth/NFHCA North Atlantic Region Player of the Year.
Of all Division III college players on record, Blackhurst ranks fifth for career scoring.
Regardless of all her achievements and awards, Blackhurst credited others, noting that her personal success was in large part due to the athleticism of the other players and their outstanding teamwork.
Blackhurst said Dec. 16 that she has played field hockey ever since she was introduced to the sport in the fourth grade at Johnsburg Elementary. Over the next 11 years, she always competed from front-line and attack positions.
“I always wanted to score goals and be in the action,” she said.
Blackhursts’ parents, Larry and Mary Blackhurst, said that their daughter has always been focused on being the best she possibly could.
“Kelly just had this incredible drive to achieve in sports — she was always self-motivated,” he said. Mary recalled how as an elementary school field hockey player, she got hurt, but was determined to go out and continue playing, despite suffering a fractured arm.
In high school, she played for the ADK Field Hockey Team, a club hockey team based in Albany, requiring semi-weekly round-trip commuting from North Creek. She also qualified for the Empire State Games in both field hockey and skiing.
Blackhurst also attended the U.S. Field Hockey Association’s Futures Field Hockey Camp, a feeder program for the U.S. Field Hockey team. She played in the U.S. Field Hockey’s National Futures championship tournament and was scouted by various colleges of all sizes. She chose to attend Skidmore because of their reputation, academic excellence and the fact she’d likely be competing on the field rather than sitting on the bench, her father said.
Coaches have noted that Blackhurst has a comprehensive knowledge of the game, instinctively knowing what to do in most any situation. She is also reputed to have outstanding field vision, as well as giving and receiving passes extremely well, with the team’s best interests at heart. Blackhurst not only has an accurate strong shot, but when in the circle in front of the goal and forced to score, she does whatever she needs to do to get the ball in the goal.
Blackhurst was an athlete from an early age. She began skiing when she was two or three, she recalled, and started competitive alpine ski racing — primarily at Gore Mountain — when she was five or six, and she continued it through her senior year.
She began skiing for the Johnsburg High ski team as an eighth grader, and she qualified for the skiing state championship tourney as an individual, for five years in a row.
A three-sport athlete, she also played softball for Johnsburg, generally a catcher.
In addition to competing on the school ski team she skied in the New York State Educational Foundation program, affiliated with the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association, an activity that took her to peaks throughout New York State.
“Growing up, I always had a lot of energy,” she said.
Athletics didn’t overshadow academics, however. Blackhurst was the Salutatorian of her class, earning an Advanced Regents Diploma with honors.
At Skidmore, she continued her outstanding scholarship, tallying high grades and qualifying for the college’s exclusive Thoroughbred Society. Blackhurst is majoring in business and management — taking marketing and accounting courses — and is pursuing a minor in early childhood education.
Whatever Blackhurst chooses as a career, she wants to be active and not sedentary, she said.
“I want to be actively helping others,” Blackhurst said, noting she is likely to be taking a year off before working toward a Masters Degree. In the meantime, she may be seeking a position as an assistant field hockey coach.
“I want to take a break and figure out what to do,” she said.
Blackhurst said her parents, Larry and Mary Blackhurst of North River, have been very supportive through her school years and college career, whether it was aiding with transportation, moral support or supplying her with sports equipment.
“They’ve attended every single field hockey game for four years,” Kelly Blackhurst said. “They never missed a game.”
Phil Goodman, Johnsburg’s Junior Varsity and Modified coach, provided a lot of support through the years, Blackhurst recalled — he even attended her games at Skidmore.
She’s also received considerable support from the North Creek/North River/Johnsburg community, including Pete and Joyce Parker, who’ve attended a considerable number of games. She’s also received a lot of letters, cards and emails of encouragement or congratulation, she said.
“It has meant so much to me that people are giving me this incredible support — it’s made me feel wonderful.”
Kelly continued that self-confidence, nurtured by her experience stemming from years of club and statewide competition, was key to her success.
“In the end, it’s all about having confidence in yourself, knowing that no matter how good the team is you’re up against, that you can beat them,” she said. “Such confidence is crucial.”
This confidence is particularly important for athletes from small schools, she said, noting that she wants to pass on this advice to others with her rural upbringing.
“It’s important for small-town athletes to know that anything is possible,” she said.