Junior year is hailed as prime time for college recruiting. It is the student-athlete’s chance to shine in their respective sport, get grades in order, begin a campus tour itinerary and dream big.
Bryce Chisley, like thousands of NCAA Division I prospects nationwide, lost the bulk of that opportunity when COVID-19 hit. In his case, an entire track and field season went out the window.
Rather than wallow in self-pity, Chisley simply went out as a senior and crafted a swan song that the state wouldn’t forget and suitors couldn’t ignore.
Two state titles and a closet full of medals, ribbons and records later, Chisley received the payoff Tuesday afternoon when he signed a national letter of intent an accepted what his Scott County coach described as nearly a full boat to the University of Louisville.
“Everything just kind of came together a few weeks after state was over, and now we’re here,” Chisley said. “I think if I didn’t miss (junior year), there would have been more opportunities. I’m just grateful for this one.”
Nearly sidelined by migraines that plagued him from middle school through his first two years of high school, Chisley exchanges one Cardinal uniform for another as a Scott County legend.
He owns the school record in both the 100 and 200-meter dash, races he swept in KHSAA state and regional competition this past spring.
Chisley’s Class 3A state meet times in the 100 (10.64 seconds) and 200 (21.32) rank among the top five all-time in a meet that’s been held since 1940.
“Two of the guys ahead of him, one is Tyson Gay, who used to be the world’s fastest man until Usain Bolt,” said SC track and field coach Monty McIntyre, who has guided at least one state champion for 10 consecutive seasons. “And another is Ronnie Baker, who just made the Olympic team.”
All earmarks of stardom were there from the get-go.
Chisley is a third-generation Kentucky state champion, following in the sneaker tracks of his grandmother, Jane, and uncle, Todd. After starring at SC, Todd Chisley enjoyed similar success at Morehead State University, where he was an Ohio Valley Conference champion.
The first signs of his own prodigious potential flashed before everyone’s eyes when Bryce was seven, on the pavement outside Ed Davis Learning Center.
“It was a race in the street. It was for a scholarship to the Cool Breeze Track Club,” Chisley recalled. “Whoever won the race got a scholarship in. I won, and ever since then, track has just been with me from middle school to high school to now.”
By seventh grade, Chisley was a state qualifier in the high school varsity relays. A year later, competing for Royal Spring, he won the middle school 100-meter title by a half-second with a time that ranked among the top 25 in the nation.
Still, there was a silent battle going on that nearly derailed his career before it could blast out of the starting block.
Chisley’s headaches, which were attributed to a cyst, made it almost impossible to focus in school or train in the hot sun. And the remedy had its own agonizing side effects.
“Sometimes I had to go to the hospital and stay for a few days. The medicine to help stop the migraines is called DHE (dihydroergotamine),” Chisley said. “You get it in an IV, so you have to be there the whole time, and they give it to you every six or eight hours. At night, you’d wake up and your legs hurt. Your whole body cramps up. You feel terrible.”
Coming off the treatments left Chisley’s body in a state of withdrawal, which led to an upset stomach and more aches and pains.
Those complications ultimately forced him to give up another sport he loves, football, after ninth grade.
“I wanted to play football really bad,” Chisley said. “I feel like I could have gotten the same kind of recognition in football. It’s just the way things worked out with my health. If it weren’t for that, I for sure would have tried to be a double athlete.”
Chisley said the medical challenges took a positive turn his sophomore year.
Then the long break from competition due to coronavirus left his body rested and primed to specialize and show out as a senior.
“I was just running,” he said. “This year I just wanted to go out there and run, because I really wanted to go to school for track. Senior year I had to hunker down.”
The title of Kentucky’s fastest man went into the bank early, and Chisley defended it often and almost without peer.
“He went undefeated in the 200 this year,” McIntyre noted, “He only lost one race in the 100. That was at the Eastern Relays, and at state he beat the guy (Jaylen Cole of Male) that beat him.”
Scott County also smashed 4x100 and 4x200 relay school records with Chisley running either the third or anchor leg. Many of his teammates who passed him the baton over the years took the time to attend Tuesday’s signing.
“That’s amazing. It’s pretty fun to be able to say I’ve won state, that I’m a school record holder,” Chisley said. “All those guys, they’re fun to be around. To see them all come and support me, it means a lot.”
By signing with Louisville, Chisley — an A and B student — continues an impressive recent Scott County pipeline. It includes two-sport star Bryan Hudson and his All-American older sister Halee Hudson in the throwing events, as well as the versatile Clay Moss, who was an SC assistant coach this past spring.
Appropriately, the entire recruiting process could be measured with a stopwatch instead of a calendar.
“Two weeks ago, the coach called me,” Chisley said. “We set up an official visit and went down there. It was nice.”
Hearing McIntyre talk about the company Chisley kept with his senior accomplishments isn’t lost on the pupil.
It’s too soon for the significance of his signing to fully sink in, but Chisley already knows he hopes to use it as the springboard to a red, white and blue jersey someday.
“Hopefully I can make it to the Olympics. I’m really not sure what I want to do as far as school, or if I want to go that professional athlete route after,” Chisley said. “Right now it’s just a lot of hard work, really hard work. That’s pretty much it.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at email@example.com.