WILMINGTON — Kennedy Wong is emerging as a leader at Ursuline Academy, not just on the track but in the various school clubs in which she participates and in the classroom. Not bad for a sophomore whose 16th birthday is still a few days away.
Athletically, Wong has made her mark on the cross country and indoor (winter) and outdoor (spring) track teams since eighth grade, when she started running with the varsity. She’s been racing since age 7, when she took part in her first 5K with her father, Brian.
“I guess I was at the age when I was deciding what sport I wanted to do,” she said. “I tried out soccer and karate a little bit, but running was just something that I enjoyed, so I stuck with it.”
Although very much a team player, Wong said she likes the individual aspects of racing.
“It’s about improving for your individual goals. It’s more focused on what you can do, and you don’t really have to worry about what other people are doing as much, and you’re just trying to do something for yourself,” she said.
In addition to the one-mile and two-mile events, Wong is also a part of the 4-by-800 relay team.
She started with the varsity as an eighth-grader, and she said she started feeling like a leader this past fall with the cross country team. She recalled a meet in North Carolina when some of the seniors couldn’t make it and she led the practices.
“It was a cool experience because it helped me realize that I had the ability to do that, and it didn’t feel that different from when I was just part of the team,” she said.
Ursuline’s indoor coach, Jim O’Hara, said one of the characteristics he likes about Wong is that she doesn’t let disappointment get in the way of her ultimate goals.
“If it doesn’t go the way she wants, she rebounds better than most high school athletes I’ve seen. Her strength is that she can keep going, and she doesn’t quit.
“Kennedy’s a joy to coach because she listens and she wants to strive to do her best at all times,” he said.
Ursuline, which was founded in 1893, has been a part of her family almost as long as the school’s been in Wilmington. Her great aunt, Elizabeth Buckley Lippincott, graduated in 1923, and her grandmother, Lynda Buckley Haggerty (Class of 1961) and mother, Lynn Haggerty Wong (Class of 1986), are also alumnae. Lynn Wong, the director of admissions at the school, said more than a dozen other relatives have also attended over the years.
Kennedy Wong is joined at Ursuline by her sister, Lindsay, a junior, and brother Christopher, who is in third grade. She has been there since she was 4 years old and Ursuline is as much a part of her as she is of it.
“It’s all I’ve known, and I see that as a good thing. I’ve developed a history here. Ursuline has helped me find myself. The people here, it’s like my family,” said Wong, who lives near the school and is a member of St. Ann’s Parish in Wilmington.
When she’s not running or studying, she keeps busy with a number of activities. She’s a member of the National Art Honor Society, the Jefferson Awards service team, the school newspaper and student government. She is president of the sophomore class, and she was president of the freshman class last year.
“Student council is one of my favorites because I like being a leader for my class and helping get things done,” she said.
Another activity that she holds in particularly high regard is Habitat for Humanity, through which volunteers help build housing for low-income people. Wong spent a week last summer in Cambridge, Md., with a group from Ursuline and other schools and parishes as part of Catholic Youth Ministry’s Pitcher and Basin program, helping Habitat on the Eastern Shore.
Ursuline’s Habitat for Humanity Club began this year, and Wong joined because “I wanted to show other people how great it was.” She is a co-chair of the fundraising committee, which has scheduled a dress-down day at Ursuline that will benefit the organization.
She also plays the piano, and volunteers during the summer in Dewey Beach with Races2Run, which organizes events for nonprofits.
O’Hara is not surprised by Wong’s busy workload, saying just about anyone who asks for her assistance gets it.
“I really think if she had too much free time she’d drive herself insane,” he said.
Wong said athletics and other activities have forced her to become an expert in time management.
“I’ve learned that’s what you have to do if you want to enjoy all the aspects of your high school career,” she said. “It’s just something that you just have to learn how to do, which I think is a valuable thing for the future.”
Spoken like a true leader.