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Mississippi State track and field athlete Kaelin Kersh died in a car accident early Sunday morning, the school confirmed. She graduated on Friday and turned 22 last month. The Pearl native and alum is the daughter of George Kersh, a world-class runner who is known as one of the best in Mississippi history.
“I will always remember Kaelin by her incredible smile,” MSU track and field coach Steve Dudley said in a statement. “Kaelin always had a positive attitude and this was contagious to everyone around her. Kaelin was a member of the most successful era of women’s track and field at Mississippi State and that was largely due to the tight bond between her and her teammates. We all loved her, and Kaelin will remain in our hearts forever. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Kersh family and to the other families involved.”
The fatal crash occurred at the intersection of Mayhew Road and MS 182 in Starkville Sunday morning around 1:24 a.m., Mississippi Highway Patrol said, when the 2002 Toyota Corolla that Kersh was in the backseat in was struck by a MHP SUV. The 2017 MHP SUV was traveling east on MS 182 in order to verify a report of a vehicle leaving the roadway at 16th Section road on MS 182 when a 2002 green Toyota Corolla entered the roadway traveling north from Mayhew Road, MHP said. The SUV collided with the left side of the Corolla, and Kersh was pronounced dead at the scene by the Oktibbeha County Coroner, MHP said.
The driver of the Corolla was 21-year-old Noel Collier from Madison, who was transported to OCH initially then to UMC Jackson with moderate injuries, MHP said. There were two passengers in the Corolla. The other passenger was Tanequa Alexander, a 22-year-old female from Ridgeland who was initially transported to OCH before being transferred to NMMC Tupelo with moderate injuries. The MHP Trooper involved in the crash was transported by patrol vehicle to BMH in Columbus for minor injuries. This crash remains under investigation by MHP.
Kersh was a contributor in the Bulldogs’ distance events and relays. She helped capture the distance medley relay at the 2016 Alabama Relays. During the 2017 indoor season, Kersh was a member of the DMR and 4×400 relay teams. Kersh graduated from MSU on Friday after receiving a degree in kinesiology and health fitness studies. Funeral arrangements are pending, Mississippi State said in a statement.
“The entire Mississippi State family mourns the tragic loss of Kaelin,” MSU athletic director John Cohen said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Kaelin’s family, friends, teammates and coaches. She represented Mississippi State in a first-class manner and earned her degree. We will be here to provide support and comfort to her family and teammates during the grieving process.”
In the 2017 indoor season, Kersh competed on two relay teams at the Blazer Invitational, running the second leg on MSU’s second place DMR group. She also ran on the 4×400 relay at the Blazer Invite. In last year’s outdoor season she captured the distance medley relay at the Alabama Relays, finishing with a total time of 11:27.97.
The SEC track and field championships are scheduled to start Thursday in South Carolina.