Tiger Tales: The Heart of Success

Oct. 4, 2013

Oct. 4, 2013

From her early days of high school, junior track and field athlete, Kimi Jennings has always had a passion to work hard, train hard, and excel not just on the field, but also in the classroom.

One phrase that Jennings holds dearly, "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard," easily describes how Jennings works toward athletic and academic success on a daily basis. A local, from Munford, Tenn., Jennings has always been active in sports. She began to pole vault in her sophomore year in high school and was encouraged by coaches to keep her interest in the sport in college.

"I picked Memphis because this is home to me now and I really love the coaching staff," Jennings said. "They make it a really big family atmosphere and that was a really big deal to me when I was looking at colleges."

Track and field head coach Kevin Robinson has also played a big part in Jennings' story as a Tigers' athlete. "She has the heart of a lion, she is a warrior," Robinson said. "And what she brings to the program in terms of leadership and commitment and heart, those things are irreplaceable, regardless of performance level."

It was her heart that presented an even bigger challenge for Jennings in July of 2012.

Jennings was devastated to find out that she had a hole in her heart, a condition that was only repairable by surgery.

 "When I first found out, I thought this could be the end for me, this could be a completely career-ending surgery. I didn't know what was going to happen," she said.

One failed surgery in September was followed by a successful one in October, and Jennings then began her road to recovery.



"Going through the process it really showed me, that I can get through this and I can bounce back."

Bounce back is exactly what Jennings did. Beginning to compete again with track & field in March of 2013, she was determined and focused with a whole new mindset on her athletics and academics.

"I had to start giving 150 percent all the time," Jennings said.  The determination and focus that she brought back to the field with her, she also brought to the classroom.

She was recently nominated by faculty members from Health and Sport Sciences as the undergraduate student for the HSS Academic Council Committee.

"Kimi is a model student in our department and because of that, I knew she would be an asset to the council," said Assistant Professor of Sport and Leisure Management, Dr. Brennan Berg. "She is eager to learn, consistently produces good work, and does not let the demands of her athletic role interfere with the responsibilities she has a student."

Jennings wasn't the only Tiger thrilled with her nomination to the Academic Council Committee, so was Coach Robinson. 

"Anytime you can have a student athlete in a league Division I level being given a high academic honor, I think it speaks volumes for the kind of people we have involved. Kimi is the epitome of the total package. She is leading by example and by a voice," Robinson said. "To me, athletes represent the institution away from the institution. Any time we can have our athletes performing well in the classroom in honors such as this, it shows that we are not just here to win, but we are here to graduate and create a better quality person that can contribute to society."

"It reminds me that what I am doing in the classroom is meaning something to somebody, somebody is noticing my hard work," Jennings responded.

Hard work that Jennings will bring back to the pole vault pit when the indoor track and field season opens at the Kentucky Invitational in January.

Video by: Brad Pope

Web Story by: Ashley Mitchell

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