Gabby Bailey has grown more out of the pitching circle than in it since leaving Jamaica to join Kent State’s athletics program in 2019.
And that means something.
Bailey became one of the best pitchers in Golden Flashes history, winning multiple Mid-American Conference titles and All-American honors while recording the second-best throws in the program in the discus and shot put. . She is equally proud of her ability to step out of a personal shell and settle into a school about 1,600 miles from her home in Portmore.
“When I got to Kent, I didn’t talk to anyone. I walked around like a ghost,” said Bailey, who will compete in the drive at the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships on Saturday in Eugene, in Oregon.” Just overheard one of the counselors who saw me when I first came here tell another counselor how amazed she was to see my transformation from yesterday to today. . Now I am very sociable, very hospitable. I go around and talk to everyone. The environment here in Kent really opens up another side of you that you never thought was a part of you.
“I know it sounds cliché, but the folks at Kent State make you feel like family.”
Gabby Bailey became an elite student-athlete at Kent State
The Flashes’ athletic support system has helped Bailey thrive at the college level, both athletically and academically. She recently earned all-district first-team academic honors for the second year in a row, shortly after defending her shot put title and finishing second in discus at the 2022 MAC Outdoor Championships.
Juggling schoolwork and athletics in a new country went easier than Bailey expected, thanks to her determination and the help she received.
“It’s not really that hard once you use your resources,” Bailey said, when asked how difficult it was to be both athletically and academically successful in college. “The Kent State Athletic Department provides everything you need in all areas for a successful college career and athletic career. Once you’ve taken advantage of it, you can’t really lose. They set aside time for you to study. If you have any questions, you can contact your educational advisers. If you are sometimes afraid to talk to your teacher like me, just go to [the advisors] and they will help you.
Kent State assistant coach Nathan Fanger has become Gabby Bailey’s father figure
While many people have helped Bailey settle in and become hugely successful in all areas of her life at Kent State, she has leaned on one person in particular since the day she arrived on campus.
Nationally renowned throwing coach Nathan Fanger is the only reason Bailey chose Kent State, based on his efforts to make fellow Jamaican Danniel Thomas-Dodd the 2017 national shot put champion . Thomas-Dodd was a 10-time All-American for the Flashes from 2013 to 2017.
“Danniel and I were being coached by the same high school coach, and he thought [Fanger] was the man,” Bailey said. “The first day he coached me he said, yes you’re going to Kent, there’s no doubt about it. I had other schools in mind, but he was quite attached to Kent. D ‘From what I’ve seen of him as a coach, whatever school he takes you to always works in your favour.
“I guess he saw a bit of Danniel in me, so he said it was Kent, and Kent is today.”
Fanger has been everything Bailey imagined and more, both as a coach and a mentor.
“He’s not just a coach, he’s like a father figure. He really watches over you, not only athletically but also academically, in all aspects of your life,” Bailey said. don’t think you’ll find a lot of coaches who are like that, who really play a role in all areas of your life, he’s good at breaking things down to the point where you can understand them, which especially helps me as as an international student with cultural differences and stuff like that.
Adjusting to America took time for Jamaican Gabby Bailey
Predictably, Jamaica’s successful transition to northeast Ohio required an adjustment period for Bailey.
“At first it was a little awkward, I have to say,” Bailey said. “Coming from Jamaica where it’s hot all year round, coming to a state where it snows the majority of the year, that was pretty inconvenient. I didn’t know what to think of that. Then there were the cultural differences. When I first came here, things you expect to see, you haven’t seen happen. I really had to take time to retreat, observe the environment and follow the program.
Bailey began settling into an athlete as a rookie in 2019, qualifying for the NCAA Outdoor Championships in the shot put. The following season was cut short by the pandemic, but once normality returned, Bailey quickly rose through the ranks of the national pitching elite.
Bailey won his first MAC crown in 2021, winning the indoor shot put title with a throw of 55 feet, 3 inches, then earned first-team All-American honors for the first time by finishing sixth at the championships. NCAA indoor (56-1.75). She built on that momentum for the outdoor season, winning MAC titles in shot put (55-1) and discus (183-5). Bailey qualified for the 2021 NCAA championships in both events and again earned first-team All-American honors finishing sixth in discus (189-5).
Despite injuries this season, Bailey still managed to finish second in the shot put at the MAC Indoor Championships (54-6) before adding a win in the shot put (55-10.25) and second place in the discus throw (171-9) during the outdoor meeting of the MAC 2022.
Bailey needed a clutch effort on her final pitch to qualify for the 2022 NCAA Outdoor Championships, unleashing a 180-1 pitch that propelled her all the way to third place in the encounter regional in Indiana.
Bailey currently ranks second to Thomas-Dodd in the KSU record books in shot put and discus, but will aim for the school’s discus record of 194-10 this Saturday in Eugene.
“I’m definitely going for the school record. Two hundred feet is my goal,” Bailey said. “I prayed for healing, I prayed for a good encounter. Now I feel good physically and I’m ready mentally. The track is 90% mental and 10% physical, and I’m there 100%. I know that something good will happen in this meeting.
The best is yet to come for Kent State track star Gabby Bailey
Although listed as a senior, Bailey still has remaining eligibility and will pitch for the Flashes one last time next season. She plans to continue rewarding those who have helped her at Kent State shine brightly as a student-athlete on the main stages of college athletics.
“The trip to Kent was quite enjoyable,” Bailey said. “The friendly environment facilitates [maximize] your talent and potential. I really enjoyed my stay at Kent, and the results are there to show that the job was done. I will continue to do the work to continue to put Kent State on the map.