Kellen Gregory didn’t participate in track until this year. The senior is kicking himself for the missed opportunity, after helping catapult Gig Harbor High School to a state title in the 4x400 relay and subsequently, a team state title.
Gregory combined with Mark Kimball, Ian Steuk and Peter Smith to run that relay at the state meet in 3 minutes, 19.24 seconds, which turned out to be a school-record.
Where he really shined was on the football field. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver made 42 receptions for 588 yards and nine touchdowns. Gregory earned first-team South Sound Conference all-league honors.
He is the Gateway’s senior male athlete of the year from Gig Harbor High School.
Gig Harbor coach George Fairhart said Gregory earned a reputation of someone who had the ability to go up and get any ball over a defender.
“He’s got phenomenal hands,” Fairhart said. “Everyone saw that. Part of that was his competitive nature. He’ll go and compete for the ball. If it’s him and another kid going for it, he’ll come down with it every time.”
Gregory said he discovered early in high school that talent would not be enough.
In his first high school football practice, under then-head coach Aaron Chantler, the lesson was learned. Chantler called the team in, but the team didn’t hustle to his liking. So they ran.
“If you weren’t going to hustle in, you were going to pay for it,” Gregory said. “That kind of set the bar for me in high school. It’s not messing around.
“In middle school, you just go home after school — you’re not lifting or anything. You’re just going home, skateboarding with the kids in the neighborhood, ding-dong ditching and all that kind of stuff.”
He also learned the value of patience.
Gregory mostly waited for his opportunity the first two years of high school football. As a sophomore, on one of Gig Harbor’s most successful teams in the school’s history, led by former News Tribune All-Area Player of the Year Davis Alexander, Gregory got his first game action on special teams.
“I was on every special teams unit you could imagine, and every week, I was watching special teams film,” Gregory said. “No one watches PAT film but I’m there, watching PAT film, seeing which angles these guys take and stuff like that.”
Gregory learned from receiver Kyle Olson-Urbon, and from team leaders like Alexander and safety Kale Wong. And then he broke out in his junior season, and by his senior season, was one of the league’s top players.
“He’s a great teammate, a hard worker,” Fairhart said.
And a valuable one. Gregory missed a couple games at the beginning of his senior season with an ankle injury. Fairhart said he noticed a difference once he returned.
“Once he got healthy, it changed everything,” Fairhart said. “When you have a great receiver, he makes everyone look a lot better.”
Gregory said all of the experience he gained in high school will come in handy for college. Gregory, who has a 3.53 cumulative grade point average, plans to walk-on at Eastern Washington University in the fall.
“There’s always going to someone faster, taller, stronger, more athletic, but the one thing you do have control over is your work ethic,” Gregory said.
“That’s one thing I think I’m going to carry with me to football at the next level and even life. You might not always be the best at what you do, but if you work your hardest, that shows your character. That’s one thing I like to hang my hat on.”