Senior Spotlight: Sakai Kelly
Senior Spotlight: Sakai Kelly
Posted on 06/02/2017

The Senior Spotlight series features interviews with Sibley seniors who have shown commitment to academic excellence and personal achievement. The series will highlight two seniors each week until graduation.

Sakai Kelly Senior PhotoSAKAI KELLY
Son of Bobbie-Jean Nowak of West St. Paul

Over the course of his high school career, Sakai Kelly has found success on the football field, on the wrestling mat, in the classroom and beyond. Through it all, however, he has stayed focused on what’s important, like building relationships, maintaining a positive attitude and supporting his classmates, teammates and even younger athletes who look up to him.  

“I really like to mentor people and be a role model for kids,” said Sakai. “[At youth wrestling practices] some kids get down on themselves if they are not winning, so I give them advice and words of encouragement to help them.” 

With his impressive athletic résumé, Sakai has a lot of experience to draw upon when working with kids. He was named All-Conference in football his junior and senior years, playing wingback/slotback on offense and cornerback on defense. Sakai was a team captain and named the team’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) in his senior year. 

On the track team, Sakai garnered All-Conference honorable mentions in his sophomore and junior years. His favorite sport, however, and the one he will continue in college, is wrestling. 

Growing up Sakai liked to play basketball, football and baseball. He had never considered wrestling until middle school when one of his teachers, Prentice Smith, who is also the head coach of the high school wrestling team, asked him to give the sport a try. Sakai took a year to consider it, but decided to join the wrestling team in 7th grade and he was hooked. The next year, he was already wrestling on the high school team.

Sakai Kelly Wrestling  - Photo Credit: Mary Christen, The 
Sakai wrestling at the State Meet.
Photo Credit: Mary Christen,

As a sophomore, Sakai had his first opportunity to wrestle at the state meet. He went again his junior year and placed 5th in Class AA. By his senior year, Sakai was a veteran state participant (placing 6th) who was able to pass along his knowledge to and share his experiences with four teammates who were first-time state meet qualifiers this past March. Sakai also led his fellow wrestlers as one of the team’s captains for the last two years.

In wrestling, Sakai has earned two MVP awards from his teammates, two All-Metro East Conference awards, two All-Conference honors and two All-State honors.

Beyond sports, Sakai has been involved in Youth Leadership and LINK Crew at Henry Sibley. He also challenges himself academically with courses such as Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, AP Psychology and College in the Schools (CIS) Physics. Sakai has earned an academic letter each year of high school and he credits some of his success to the time management skills he has gained as a student athlete.

“Having a busy schedule has helped me learn how to manage my time,” said Sakai. “I’ve had to learn how to balance sports, studies and my social life, which is a skill every high schooler can use.”

This fall, Sakai will be attending St. Cloud State University where he will be a member of their wrestling team. Sakai is currently undecided about his major, though he is considering a degree in education.

Before Henry Sibley High School, Sakai attended Heritage E-STEM Magnet Middle School.

District 197: How has Sibley prepared you to succeed after graduation?
Sakai: Every teacher holds every student accountable so that has helped prepare me and my peers for graduation. It really shows in and outside the classroom how much every teacher cares and wants to see each student succeed.

Who is your favorite teacher or what is your favorite subject?
My favorite teacher would have to be Mrs. Footh. I first had her in general psychology junior year and I enjoyed the class so much I decided to take the AP course taught by her the following year. Mrs. Footh is also the Youth Leadership teacher and to have her as my teacher in all of those courses was a real treat. She really made class enjoyable everyday and I'd look forward to going to it. I feel like she connects with a lot of her students and I know many of my peers feel the same way.

What’s a memory from your time at Sibley that will always stay with you?
I have many memories from my time at Sibley that I will cherish for a long time. One of my favorite memories would have to be competing in all of the sports I participate in. Just being able to hang out with my teammates and playing whatever it was with each other is something I will always remember. All of the relationships that grew through these sports is also what I will remember.

What advice do you have for younger students about high school?
One thing I'd advise to all students is to not stress over the little things. Yes, some things in your life now may seem like the end of the world but it's not, it's high school.

Anything else you'd like to share about your time at Sibley?
Being at Sibley was such a wonderful experience. I met a lot of new people and made a lot of friends.

Read about other achievements by students in the class of 2017: