Deer Lakes’ McKinney goes into A-K hall as multifaceted athlete

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Saturday, May 6, 2023 | 9:31 PM


West Deer native Kerry McKinney Mills lives near Toronto with her Canadian-born husband, Bryan, and their three children.

While the Maple Leafs are playing in the NHL’s Stanley Cup playoffs, the real hockey allegiance in the McKinney Mills household is to Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“Hockey is incredibly popular here, but I walked into marrying a Pens fans,” said McKinney Mills, a former Deer Lakes and Robert Morris track and field star. “He’ll watch the Leafs games and he enjoys rooting for the Leafs, but he is a Pens fan.”

The entire McKinney Mills family is scheduled to make the 4½-hour trek from their home in Waterdown, Ontario, to see Kerry inducted into the Alle-Kiski Valley Sports Hall of Fame on May 20 at the Pittsburgh Shrine Center in Harmar.

“I feel almost like I can’t believe it,” she said. “I’m excited to get back to see family and friends who have said they are going to the banquet, along with reconnecting with some old coaches.”

A 2001 Deer Lakes graduate, McKinney Mills earned 11 letters playing soccer, basketball and track with the Lancers. But she left her biggest legacy as a middle-distance runner on the track squad.

“I was just into athletics in general,” she said. “I decided to give track a try in ninth grade. I wasn’t sure what event I wanted to do. I started in the sprints, the 100 and 200 (meter runs), and slowly realized I was better at the middle distances, the 400 and 800.”

McKinney Mills developed into one of the top runners in the WPIAL, winning gold medals in the 400 and 800 in both her junior and senior years. She added state gold medals in the 400 as a junior and in the 800 to cap off her senior season.

“I just enjoyed competing. It was just my personality,” she said. “Every race, I remember wanting to beat the time that I had the previous race, just go faster than I did the last time. I had that competitive drive to always want to run better than the last time.”

Robert Morris was the top college to recruit McKinney Mills. At the time, she also planned to walk on with the Colonials soccer team. But RMU track and cross country coach Michael Smith convinced her to take up cross country instead.

As a sophomore, McKinney Mills won the Northeast Conference championship in the 800 during both the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

“With cross country, then going straight to indoor and outdoor track season, I was running up to 70 miles a week,” said McKinney Mills, who graduated from RMU in 2005.

While at Robert Morris, McKinney Mills met Bryan, who was a member of the school’s inaugural men’s hockey team. Now, their children — Landon, age 11, Tenley, 10, and Teigan, 7 — play youth hockey.

“Before the kids became fully involved in sports, I’d come back to run in the Pittsburgh Marathon, either in the relay with friends or the half marathon,” said McKinney Mills, adding she ran the full marathon in 2019, before covid-19 restrictions curtailed U.S.-Canada travel.

The upcoming visit home will be memorable for McKinney Mills — and not just because of the A-K Hall of Fame ceremony. She will turn 40 years old May 21.

“We’re going to have a weekend of celebrations,” she said. “It should be exciting.”

If you go

52nd A-K Valley Sports Hall of Fame induction

7 p.m. Saturday, May 20

Pittsburgh Shrine Center, Harmar

Tickets: $40. There will be no tickets sold at the door.

Contact: Larry Lutz, 724-822-3695; Fred Soilis, 412-736-1809; Bill Heasley, 724-882-3079

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