Students studying outside the library

Tommy McKelvey '16

Rarely misses her mark

Tommy McKelvey 382x255
Tommy McKelvey has maxed out all three of her physical training tests this year, and has broken two records during her time at Wofford – one with the Southern Guards ROTC Battalion and one with the college’s rifle team.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Tommy McKelvey ’16 rarely misses her mark – whether it’s during a rifle competition or doing pushups – and when she does, she just uses that as further motivation to work toward getting better.

McKelvey, an ROTC cadet at Wofford College, has maxed out all three of her physical training tests this year, and has broken two records during her time at Wofford – one with the Southern Guards ROTC Battalion and one with the college’s rifle team. 

She currently holds the Wofford record, over both males and females, for performance on the Army physical fitness test extended scale, where she not only reached the maximum score of 300, but went beyond it with a score of 372. She also set the Wofford individual scoring record for marksmanship on the rifle team with a score of 586 at the South Eastern Air Rifle Conference hosted at The Citadel last year. 

McKelvey, a Chinese major from Buffalo, S.C., came to Wofford on a National Army ROTC full scholarship, but says that she didn’t always know she wanted to go into the military. She joined her high school’s JROTC program freshman year for the challenge of the competitions and the social circle of friends she made – but she wasn’t sold on pursuing the military after high school. “I admired people in the military, but I didn’t want to do it myself,” she explains. “However, I woke up one day in 11th grade, and thought, ‘I’m supposed to be an Army officer’ and everything just seemed right.” 

She was not the only one who found her to be the right fit for the military – she was named top physical female cadet of her JROTC all four years of high school, a key factor in being awarded a merit-based scholarship offer to attend Wofford. 

Before receiving the scholarship, she enrolled in the Army National Guard in December 2011. As most students went shopping for their dorm decorations the summer before their first year of college, McKelvey went to basic training. In September, she received the offer for the four year scholarship, and then was released from the National Guard.

“She has values focused around competiveness and integrity,” Col. Randy Hall, Wofford’s director of campus safety and rifle coach, who also is retired from the military, says of McKelvey. “She exemplifies the Wofford Honor Code and the Army values.” He explains that at a recent match, McKelvey’s rifle malfunctioned and fired before it was on a target, considered a violation even though it was an accident. “No one but her knew of the incident, but she knew she had to do the right thing and report the violation. She believes in doing the right thing, even when it is not acknowledged.”

The key to her success is staying healthy, time-management and motivation to always do better.

“I am virtually non-stop during my day, but I make time for my workouts even when there seems to be no time,” she says. She also sticks to a nutrition plan of eating five to six times a day, and only eating lean meats, vegetables, fruits and non-fried foods.

As a reward for her excellent performance on her PT tests, she is not required to go to morning physical training practices with other ROTC members. That doesn’t stop her, however, from waking up on her own before classes to work out. “I slacked off a little this week,” she admits, “and it showed during my last test where my score went down a little. That’s fine for now, but I can’t continue on that track if I want to keep improving.”

McKelvey admits that she’s learned she needs to find ways to treat herself so that the strict diet and exercise do not become monotonous. She allows herself one “cheat” during the week, where she can eat something that she normally wouldn’t, such as chocolate or pizza, but adds that she still tries to be health-conscious by having it earlier in the afternoon rather than later in the day. Her other secret is Texas Pete. “I avoid sauces such as ranch (dressing) or ketchup, so I find myself eating a lot of Texas Pete,” she says.

One of her favorite things to do when she isn’t practicing rifle or studying is photography. “Photos capture the memories we cannot get back,” she says. “When I think of a memory, I think of a photo. Pictures are important because once something happens in life, it is gone, and all that is left is the memory and the photo.” One of her dreams is to go into photography after serving in the military. “When taking a picture, you have to think about the right angle and lighting. I’ve never been trained in these areas, but I’ve figured out how to do it on my own,” she says.

McKelvey is majoring in Chinese even though she had never spoken it before her time at Wofford. After graduation, she will serve as an officer in the Army, but she won’t know her duty station until her senior year in 2016.

McKelvey has proven that with a little self-determination, hard work and dedication, she can achieve whatever she puts her mind to, and is constantly looking at ways she can improve herself. “I have not beaten the women’s two-mile time yet,” she admits, “but I am definitely working on it.”

Written by Dana Nobles ’15