Multitalented Key sisters top runners in the City

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by Malik Vincent

It’s one thing to have to devote time to being one of the young bright artists of Pittsburgh.

And it’s another thing to be track and field champs, numbers one and two in Cross Country, and—in the case of one—All-City basketball player.

AmberKaylaKey
AMBER AND KAYLA KEY (Courier Photos/William McBride/File)

This is, indeed, the case for Amber and Kayla Key of East Liberty. Both are Visual Arts majors at the Pittsburgh Public High School for the Creative and Performing Arts.

Amber finished second to the younger Kayla for the second year in the row with a time of 21:32 at this year’s Cross Country championships in Schenley Park on Oct. 22. However, the senior Key is a two-time City League track and field champion of the mile event and is looking to take that into the upcoming season and into college.

She has aspirations of, perhaps, becoming a walk-on to Howard University’s track team. But she currently has a NCAA Division-II scholarship offer on the table with West Chester near Philadelphia.

“I visited Howard’s campus and loved the big city environment but the campus is small enough for me to be comfortable with,” Amber said, who is a member of the National Honor Society. “But if I don’t go there, I’d be just fine with going to West Chester to continue my career.”

Division-III Washington and Jefferson College has also shown interest in Amber.

Kayla has had huge success in what’s just her sophomore year. The two-time city champion of cross country and the winner of the 200-meter dash in track last season as a freshman, Kayla was also honored in 2010 as an All-City basketball honorable mention as Westinghouse’s starting point guard.

Both sisters finished around the top-200 in PIAA State competition this season, as well, in cross country (Kayla: 171, Amber: 211).

Their parents, Emmanuel and Marion Key started a track and field club called iSpeed that trains young athletes ages 6-18.

Locally, iSpeed competes mostly against Three Rivers Track and Field (with its 30-plus squads) and, said Emmanuel, has competed in national meets against USA track and field organizations. They’ve gone as far as New Orleans for the Junior Olympics.

“iSpeed has helped so much with our development over the years,” Amber said. The background in track has helped with the speed aspect of our cross country game, tremendously.”

The two girls still train with their father.

“I feel very good about what my daughters are accomplishing,” Emmanuel Key said. “Numbers one and two in the city cross country and everything else. It’s tremendous. I’m so proud of all of the things that they’re doing.”

Despite different art concentrations, both sisters remain involved in their crafts. Amber, who wants to major in art education, is more into drawing and painting. Kayla enjoys sculpting and T-shirt printing.

But Kayla admits that having a packed schedule and limited time makes things tough at times.

“We often have to travel from one side of town to the other to make practices and meets and that raises a challenge from time-to-time,” said Kayla.

When kids are usually dismissed from school shortly after 2 p.m., CAPA doesn’t dismiss until 3:38 p.m.

“I know for basketball they usually have to do weightlifting and stuff without me and by the time I arrive to Westinghouse they’re just getting to the gym,” Kayla added. “They have definitely changed cross country practice in order for my sister and me to make it on time. It gets pretty crazy, that’s for sure.”

(To find out more information on iSpeed track club access their webpage at http://ispeedtrackclub.com. Malik Vincent can be reached at mvincent@newpittsburghcouier.com or follow him on Twitter @malikvincent.)

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