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Vanderbilt-bound Kacie Breeding of Unionville sets torrid pace in classroom and beyond

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By DENNY DYROFF

KENNETT SQUARE – The Unionville area is a hotbed of equine activity. “Breeding excellence” in Unionville circles usually refers to finding the right stallion as the sire and the right mare as the dam.

But, if the conversation is about another sport in the area – Unionville High School girls cross country/track – the phrase “Breeding excellence” takes on a whole different meaning.

Rather than a reference to horses, it is a reference to the athletic and academic career of Unionville senior Kacie Breeding.

Breeding is a relative newcomer to competitive running – having just begun two years ago when she was a sophomore. In a relatively short period of time, Breeding has risen to the heights of scholastic cross country and track. She just concluded her high school career as a six-time All State competitor.

“When I was younger, I played soccer, basketball and lacrosse,” said Breeding. “I started playing soccer when I was four or five and hated it so I stopped. I started playing again in Middle School to be with my friends.

“I played in the Southern Chester County Soccer Association at Legacy Field in Kennett Square. I played for the travel team. I also played soccer at Unionville High my freshman year.”

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Then, Breeding was introduced to running.

“Mrs. Hannah Christopher had running clinics that I attended,” said Breeding. “She influenced me to run high school track and cross country.”

That was a sequence of events that led to many happy moments for UHS track and cross country coach Mark Lacianca.

“She came out for our team after freshman year,” said Lacianca. “She had played soccer and I wasn’t aware of her. I don’t know who talked her into running.”

Breeding identified the “culprit.”

“My friend Olivia Young was one of the key runners on the cross country team,” said Breeding. “She knew that Coach Lac (Lacianca) is always looking for different runners. She reached out to me and invited me to practice. I said – OK, maybe I’ll go to one.”

In recent years, Unionville has had one of the best cross country programs – not only in the area but also at the state, regional and national levels. It didn’t take long for Breeding to hop on board.

“I was a sophomore and they were talking about Nationals,” said Breeding. “Coach Lac brought us to two really good invitationals – the McQuaid Invitational in upstate New York (Rochester) and the Manhattan Invitational in New York City.

“At the McQuaid meet, we beat Fayetteville-Manlius, a team from New York State that’s one of the best in the country. At Manhattan, we beat F-M again and we won the meet.”

The Indians were one of the best teams and Breeding quickly became one of the Indians’ best runners.

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In her sophomore cross country season, Breeding was fourth at the Ches-Mont League Championships, sixth at the District 1 Class AAA Championships and ninth at the PIAA Class AAA Championships.

In 2104, she placed fifth at leagues, sixth at districts and 15th at states. As a senior, Breeding won the bronze medal at Ches-Mont’s and followed with a fifth-place finish at districts and a seventh-place finish at states.

“Kacie has a lot of talent and has really learned how to be a runner,” said Lacianca. “She’s always been a team player but she had to learn how to come to work every day. Her work ethic steadily improved and she really came into her own this year.”

Breeding’s list of athletic achievements includes: PIAA AAA Team State Champions 2013 and Runners-Up 2014-2015; NXR Northeast Team Champions 2013-2014; fourth-place DMR (distance medley relay) at Penn Relays 2016; sixth-place 4×800 at Penn Relays 2015: voted “Most Athletic” by graduating class; Marine Corps Distinguished Scholar-Athlete recipient 2016; Nancy J. Ward Memorial Award; 1600 gold medal at 2016 Ches-Mont Championships; school record in the 1600, DMR and 4×800; West Chester Running Store Memorial Award; and six-time All-State honoree.

“She has the ability,” said Lacianca. “In this sport, you also have to have a great work ethic – and she has that. I’m confident of her continuing to improve. Her future is very bright.”

Her immediate future takes her to Nashville, Tennessee – to Vanderbilt University where she will study biomedical engineering and run cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.

Vandy’s stellar list of recruits includes Breeding along with Lauren Moffett (Fresno, Calif., Clovis North High, Distance/XC), Becca Schulte (Fort Collins Colo., Fort Collins High, Events: 400/200), Mailin Struck (Johannes-Brahms School, Pinneberg, Germany, Events: Distance/XC), Caleigh Lofstead (Camas, Wa., Camas High, Events: Pole Vault),  and Margaret Ollinger (Fairhope, Ala., McGill Toolen, Events: Pole Vault).

The six athletes are expected to make immediate contributions next season for a Vanderbilt cross country team that has advanced to the NCAA Championships in each of the past five seasons and/or a track program that has made an impact on the national level in recent years.

“I decided on biomedical engineering because I love science and math,” said Breeding. “This field enables me to problem solve, learn more about our world, and help others all at the same time.

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“I chose Vanderbilt because they have my major and they have a decent running program. I wanted to be in a city and Nashville is a great city. Vanderbilt just seemed like a happy place.”

Last year, the Commodores finished 19th for the school’s second-best finish ever at the NCAA Championships.

Vandy’s women’s cross country team also was awarded the Tolbert Cup, which is given annually to the university’s team with the best combination of community service, athletic performance and academic achievement. Those three attributes make Breeding an ideal recruit for the ’Dores.

Breeding is one of the top academic students in Unionville’s senior class with GPA of 4.5 (on a scale of 4.0) and a dossier that includes nine A.P. (advance placement) classes.

She is a National Merit Commended Scholar, a National Honors Society member, a French Honors Society member and in the top five percent in her class for GPA.

She also has an impressive resume of extracurricular activities – UNITY club member (this club welcomes transfer students to the community/high school); SHOC mentor (this club welcomes incoming middle-schoolers to the high school); regular volunteer at the Kennett Area Senior Center; and referee for Southern Chester County Soccer Association.

“It’s a lot of fun participating in activities at the Kennett Area Senior Center,” said Breeding. “We socialize and have special dinners. It’s really enjoyable to be with the senior citizens and talk with them because you can see that they’re having fun.”

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Kacie Breeding’s Favorite Things
Favorite athlete – Kara Goucher/Kim Conley
Favorite food – sweet potato
Favorite movie – “The Blind Side”
Favorite TV show – “Property Brothers”
Favorite music – Alternative rock/Coldplay
Favorite sports team – Philadelphia Flyers
Favorite city – Nashville
Favorite horse breed – Miniature horses (family owns one)
 

Breeding reflected on her athletic career to date.

“I’ve played many sports – basketball, lacrosse, soccer, and field hockey,” said Breeding. “I was voted most outstanding athlete in middle school. It was a unanimous vote by all of the middle school coaches.

“I was first female finisher in the Anson B Nixon Run (1.5 miles) in Kennett Square every year I ran it. I also had run a 5:39 mile in seventh grade with no training. People encouraged me to start running but I never wanted to run. I thought it would be too boring.”

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Kacie Breeding played lacrosse among other sports before focusing on running.

She no longer holds that viewpoint.

“What keeps running from being boring?” said Breeding.”The reason that running is so great for me is the teammates that I have. It’s great to go on long runs with your friends.”

For Breeding, who is the daughter of Bev and Cliff Breeding, excellence in competitive sports is a long-running family tradition.

“My maternal grandfather Edward Donnelly was a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1950s,” said Breeding. “My uncle Butch Donnelly held the Mid-Atlantic race walk record for a time and was an All-State football player at Conrad High School in Wilmington (Del.), where he also starred in baseball and basketball.

“Outside my family, I’ve had a few mentors that have stood out to me and have helped push me to where I am today. There were Mrs. Christopher and Patrick Ricci, who was my sixth-grade teacher and mentor.

“Others were coaches John Rohde and Jerry Little in middle school and Coach Lac, Jenny Smith and other track coaches at Unionville. Courtney Smith and other upperclassmen on the 2013 State Championship team also were huge influences. And, I can’t forget my parents.

“I have learned so many invaluable lessons from these aforementioned people. Without them, I would certainly not have achieved as much as I have. They have provided unparalleled support in my endeavors and have helped me accomplish some of my dreams.”

 

 

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