At left: McClain senior Kerigan Pollard celebrated her 100th career goal in soccer this past fall en route to breaking the school record. Center: Pollard is pictured during a swim meet and during a soccer game as a senior at MHS. (All three photos by Jim Jones/The Highland County Press.) At right: Pollard poses after her seventh-place finish at the district meet, where she broke her own school record. (Photo courtesy of McClain Athletics)
At left: McClain senior Kerigan Pollard celebrated her 100th career goal in soccer this past fall en route to breaking the school record. Center: Pollard is pictured during a swim meet and during a soccer game as a senior at MHS. (All three photos by Jim Jones/The Highland County Press.) At right: Pollard poses after her seventh-place finish at the district meet, where she broke her own school record. (Photo courtesy of McClain Athletics)
Earlier this month, McClain senior Kerigan Pollard broke a 20-year-old school record in the 50-yard freestyle event, only to beat her own record two weeks later at the district meet. Impressive? Yes. Surprising? Not when you consider that Pollard — who has played six sports at various times in her young life — has been reaching and exceeding milestones for four years at McClain High School.

During the Frontier Athletic Conference swimming championships on Feb. 3, Pollard broke the aforementioned 20-year-old school record in the 50-yard freestyle event, which she won with a time of 25:86. Pollard also won the 100-yard freestyle at 1:01.89 at the FAC Championships.

On Feb. 18, Pollard broke that two-week-old record with a time of 25.79, good for seventh place at the Central, East & Southeast Division II District Swimming & Diving Championships.

For Pollard, her athletic accomplishments started with playing sports at a young age, as she’s had a lifelong interest in a variety of sports. She holds school records in soccer and track and field as well as swimming. In addition, she also has played softball for a number of years — joining the Lady Tigers squad this year for her senior year — and she is a member of the school’s powerlifting club as well.

“I’ve played a lot of sports since I was really little,” Pollard said. “When I was able, I started playing soccer when I was three and half or 4, so it’s been a long time for that. Then I’ve played softball for over a decade, starting out at Mitchell’s [Mitchell Park].”

She’s also looked up to members of her family as influences, as both of her parents were high school athletes. Her older sister, Kendall, was also involved in sports, including having success as a member of the Lady Tigers golf and softball teams while she was at MHS.

Pollard said she also played basketball for several years, from third through eighth grades, before trying swimming in high school.

“I had really bad knees, so I thought I’d take a break,” Pollard said. “I always knew I could go back to basketball if I wanted. I ended up liking swimming, so I just stuck with it.”

Former MHS varsity girls swim coach Katie Dettwiller, who has continued to be a mentor to Pollard over the last three years, spoke about Pollard’s early days in the McClain Natatorium.

“I first met Kerigan when she came in for an open swim at the school pool one evening before the start of her freshman year,” Dettwiller said. “She hadn’t swam competitively before, so I asked her to show me what she could do. Sometimes as a coach, you can watch someone and tell they are an athlete. Kerigan was one of those ‘someones’ — a diamond in the rough.”

Although Dettwiller said she saw potential in the freshman right away, Pollard laughed when she spoke about her early days as a Lady Tiger Shark.

“Actually, when I first started with Katie, I had to hold my nose,” she said. “The video of my first swim is one of the worst things to watch. I couldn’t put my head in the water.

“I was like, ‘I can’t not hold my nose,’ and Katie said, ‘I’ll get you there.’ I just learned. I was like, I don’t want to embarrass myself.”

Dettwiller said that Pollard started attending open swims during her freshman soccer season, where she quickly sharpened her skills and decided to join the Lady Tiger Sharks Team.

“She picked up technique on all strokes,” Dettwiller said of Pollard’s work at open swims. “She didn’t complain about the butterfly, which is a rarity among swimmers, and she didn’t have a problem learning the flip turn. After Kerigan had been to a few open swims, I was hoping and praying she would choose to swim during the season. She did, and not only did she prove to be a competitor in the pool, she proved to be a personable and supportive person out of the water.” 

Dettwiller added that in her first year on the team, Pollard earned the team’s “Rookie of the Year” award after her strong start to her career.

“While I was coaching, I gave an award every year to a first-year swimmer who stood out throughout the season,” Dettwiller said. ”To me, it was the second most important award I gave out, following close behind the award for the swimmer with the highest GPA for the season. Kerigan earned my Rookie award her freshman year.   

“I knew four years ago that Kerigan would do well in swimming if she stuck with the sport. She did, and she has. I couldn’t be more proud of the swimmer, athlete and person that Kerigan has become.” 

It’s obvious that Pollard didn’t “embarrass herself,” as she qualified for districts as a member of the 200-yard freestyle relay team as a freshman and as a sophomore. During her junior year, Pollard competed at districts in the 200-yard and 400-yard freestyle relay events, along with the 50-yard freestyle.

Jeana McNeal, who has coached Pollard the past three seasons, said that Pollard has spent hours in the pool — including before school — working to improve her time in the 50-yard freestyle after finishing 16th at the district meet with a 26.56 a year ago.

“Kerigan is a very driven person,” McNeal said. “Her sophomore year, she started with a goal of breaking 28 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. Then, her sights were set on the school record of 26.10. Last year, she finished with a 26.56.

“This year was the last chance, and she was determined now more than ever. She came in at 5:30 a.m. before school for open swims and worked tirelessly. At our league championship, she blew the record out of the water.”

Due to COVID-19 and attendance restrictions, Pollard broke the school record for the first time with a very limited audience. Not only did she swim in the FAC championships without her family there cheering her on, but her own teammates weren’t able to watch the event in person.

“We couldn’t have any spectators,” she said. “Usually we can cheer on our teammates by the pool, but we had to stay in another room. When I broke the record, there were only like three other girls there, but my teammates all waited for me in the hallway.

“My family was watching on TV at home, so at least they could watch it as it happened. [McClain] had a livestream, Washington Court House did and Miami Trace did, so we had three different views.”

As she began her journey as a high school athlete, Pollard said she had a goal to break a hurdles record, after competing in the event in middle school, and was hoping to excel in soccer. Since she said joining the swim team was a “last-minute” decision, breaking a record for that sport was just an added bonus, as was breaking the pole vault record, which she also tried for the first time in high school.

In the fall of 2020, Pollard broke a four-year-old girls scoring record for varsity soccer her senior year, finishing her career as a Lady Tiger with 116 goals. The previous record was held by Taylor Polley, who became the all-time leading scorer during her senior year in 2016.

Also during her senior soccer season, Pollard and her teammates made history together as the team with the most wins for a season in program history (seven), and they were the first Lady Tigers soccer team in program history to win a tournament game. The Lady Tigers defeated Circleville, 2-1 in the sectionals, a game which McClain also hosted.

Pollard said being a part of the first Lady Tigers soccer team to win a tournament game has been a major highlight of her record-breaking senior season thus far.

“Winning our first tournament game ever was one of my favorite games for soccer,” she said. “It was really exciting. We played Circleville and lost a week and a half before, but we were missing some girls because of quarantine. They were back, and we knew we had a really good chance at winning.

“Everybody played so hard that night, and it was our last home game, so it was the best last game for senior year.”

Pollard said that of all the sports she’s played, she likes soccer the most, and she’s looking forward to taking her skills to the next level as she has signed a letter of intent to play soccer in college.

“I probably like soccer most,” Pollard said. “I think it’s just because I’ve played it so long, it’s just like my thing.”

Pollard added that she is looking forward to playing soccer for Mount St. Joseph University in the fall, as she said it was a “perfect” fit for her.

“I wanted to go into art education, and they have a really, really good program there,” Pollard said. “I got a hold of the soccer coach, and it was perfect. I really liked him and the program they have there.”

And also looking in the future, Tyler Carman, the head varsity girls soccer coach, said that Pollard has “set the example” for soccer players in the Lady Tigers program.

“I’d just like to thank Kerigan for the example she’s set for our program, not just for the last four years, but for the future as well,” Carman said. “She’s so deserving of all the accolades she’s received.”

As Pollard is also planning ahead for the upcoming spring sports season at McClain, she is entering the track and field season holding even more school records, with the potential for more success. She currently holds the pole vault record at 9 feet. She also holds the shuttle hurdles record at 1:12.2 as a member of a relay team with Chayden Pitzer, Maddy Crawford and Emma Stegbauer.

Pollard said she was “really close” to breaking an individual record in hurdles, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all spring sports were canceled her junior year. Her coach, Jake Orr-Zody, agreed, saying “one wonders ‘what if” she had been able to compete all four years in track and field.

“Kerigan Pollard exemplifies what some may call an ‘athlete,’” Orr-Zody said. “She can do it all. What Kerigan puts her mind to, she doesn't just do, she excels at. Her accolades in soccer, swimming and track & field speak volumes to her talent and competitive spirit.  Last winter, alongside swimming, she decided to give powerlifting a try. Before the powerlifting season was cut short [due to COVID-19], she was able to establish herself as one of the strongest girls in southern Ohio. She's also one heck of a softball player.

“She's obviously extremely blessed athletically, but she just has a quality that makes her an extreme competitor. Being partial to track & field, one wonders ‘what if’ in regards to other records/accomplishments we could've witnessed in the spring of 2020.”

As mentioned, Pollard also plans to join the softball team as well this spring.

“I’ve always played with a group of girls for travel softball, and my mom’s never let me do two sports at once, but out of the whole travel team, I’m the only one who doesn’t play [in high school],” Pollard said. “Since I’d be the only one, I’m going to do both track and softball.

“We’ve played since we were all like 8, so it’ll be our last chance.”

That means Pollard will end her senior year as a five-sport athlete at McClain, no doubt leaving a mark on every program. Pollard’s coaches spoke highly of her attitude and work ethic, including the leadership role she’s embraced on all these teams.

“Kerigan has a very positive and bubbly personality,” McNeal said. “She is very encouraging to all of her teammates and motivates them to do their best anyway she can. Kerigan is a ‘work hard, play hard’ student-athlete.”

Dettwiller agreed, saying that Pollard “leads by example.”

“She’s also one of the two swimmers I ever had that cramped in both feet at the same time and still had a smile on her face the whole time,” Dettwiller said.

Carman spoke about Pollard’s “heart” as well as her competitive spirit.

“As a coach, you can have a player with all the talent in the world and you can have a player who has all the heart and competitiveness in the world, but when it comes to Kerigan, I was lucky enough to coach a player who has both qualities,” Carman said. “I have no doubt that she will continue to shine both on and off the field in her future.”

Orr-Zody added that Pollard’s experience — particularly her success each year in soccer, swimming and track and field — is something that is becoming more and more “rare” as athletes sometimes focus on one sport.

“I think something that gets lost is the rarity nowadays of someone like Kerigan,” Orr-Zody said. “It's hard to find a three-sport athlete who is this successful. There are notions out there on specificity and not wanting to do another sport due to risks. Kerigan exemplifies the idea of different sports complementing each other with various trainings helping to shape a powerful and durable athlete.

“Pollard's accomplishments will only increase as she dons the colors of MHS. I'm excited to see what the spring has in store and will expect great things from her and the soccer program at Mount St. Joe’s.”

After reflecting on her successes at MHS and looking ahead to her final season, Pollard thanked her family, coaches and teammates.

“I want to thank Katie Dettwiller and Brad George and Jeana McNeal for coaching me in swim, Tyler Carman for soccer and Nate Luke and Jake Orr-Zody for track,” she said. “I’d like to thank my parents and sister, too, and thank you to my teammates in every sport.”