West Fargo’s Throwing Duo
by Kayley Erlandson
Photography by Thru Him Photography
Goofy, funny, encouraging, outgoing. These are just a few of the words that Keely Walker’s teammates use to describe the West Fargo High School senior athlete.
“You can take ‘outgoing’ off of my list and put it on hers,” Keely said, pointing to fellow track and field teammate Akealy Moton, “She talks to everyone.”
Keely and Akealy spend a lot of time together during the track and field season, practicing with their teammates and pushing each other to perform their best in shotput, discus, and javelin. When asked what their typical practice is like, Akealy joked, “I basically yell at Red [Keely’s nickname] to keep going.”
It’s immediately obvious that Keely and Akealy are both easygoing and often joke around with each other, which they both say comes along with being on the same team with someone for their entire track and field career.
“We spend a lot of time together during track season,” Akealy said. “We’re everywhere together.”
Both girls are standout throwers on the West Fargo track and field team who competed and placed in last year’s state track and field meet. While these two athletes live and breathe their field events during the season, they didn’t always harbor such an intense devotion to the sport.
Akealy’s brother Caleb encouraged her to try javelin during her 7th grade year. During her first day at practice, Akealy says she hit the back of her head three times in a row trying to practice her throwing form, but followed Caleb’s brotherly advice: “It’s not that hard, just throw.”
Keely was also a 7th grader when she joined track and field, but was initially hesitant to join the team. Since softball takes place during the same time of year as track and field, she could only compete in one sport.
“My dad said I could play softball in the summer and made me do track and field to expand my horizons,” Keely said. Her reaction to the news?
“I cried,” Keely said.
Despite Keely’s less-than-enthusiastic reaction to the beginning of her track and field career, her uncle was excited to pass on his expertise to his niece.
“My uncle won state shot put when he was in high school and he was one of the first people who ended up helping me with my form.” Keely said.
Akealy’s family also has a history with track and field – her mother ran a majority of running events and her grandpa was a track and cross country coach. Akealy says that her father is very supportive and gives her good advice when it comes to her athletic career. “He tells me not to worry what other people say and just try to do what I can do to the best of my ability.”
Flash forward to senior year, and Akealy and Keely both have state medals under their belts and are looking forward to another run this year. At last year’s state meet, the two girls tied for third place in discus, Akealy placed first in shot put and javelin and Keely snagged the third place medal in shot put.
“It was all a blur,” Keely said, when asked about her experience at the state competition.
Their goals for the upcoming track and field season are to beat their personal records from last year.
“I want to improve on distance and form,” Akealy said. “Just improve off of where I left off.”
Keely also set personal goals for the upcoming season, but says she and Akealy wants to help prepare their entire team for next year. “I try to cheer my teammates as much as possible. I want to help other people and I want our team as a whole to have more qualifiers. We had three state qualifiers last year, but no one else placed. As leaders we’re going to have to step up this year and get them there.”
Both Keely and Akealy are quick to attribute their success at last year’s state meet to their teammates and the positive environment the team has created together. The throwers on the team regularly bond over food, taking trips to Applebee’s after their weekend meets and partaking in Akealy’s unique snack choices during the meet: cereal, cookies, and different types of sunflower seeds.
“I think I feed everyone during meets,” Akealy joked.
When asked to describe their team’s dynamic, track and field teammates Alex Talley and Dylan Anthony said that the throwers are very supportive of each another.
“We are very encouraging. We have a lot of fun with each other,” said Talley.
“We have the most fun!” Anthony quickly corrected.
Keely and Akealy both agreed that the throwers have created a supportive environment for everyone on the team.
“We make it better in the end,” Akealy said. “If you’re on a team and you’re not super comfortable with everyone, you won’t want to put in the extra work.”
For Akealy and Keely, connecting with their teammates and putting in additional time to improve their performances isn’t a problem.
“My dad and I have a saying: champions are made in the off season.” Keely said.
Both girls have already started making plans for the future. Akealy has her sights set on first place medals for all three field events at the state track and field. Keely plans to compete in track and field at the collegiate level and recently committed to the University of North Dakota (UND).
“UND has been on my radar for a long time.” Keely said, and talked about her family connections to the university and the college’s quality health programs. She plans to become an orthopedic physician after college and says her passion for the health field was sparked by her positive experience with the trainers at her high school and her work as a student trainer for her high school’s football team.
With the upcoming track and field season starting soon and post-high school plans underway, the future looks bright for both Keely and Akealy. FMSV