By Ashley Wislock
The Daily Item
DENVER — Fifteen-year-old Kayla Kline, of Mifflinburg, set a national punting distance record Saturday in her fourth appearance at the NFL’s annual Pass, Punt and Kick competition with a boot of 143 feet, 1 inch into the thin air of the Mile High City.
Kayla, who won her national age group in 2012 and 2013, finished third overall Saturday with a score of 335 feet, 7 inches. The winner, from Des Plaines, Ill., ended with 387 feet, 5 inches. The second-place finisher in the girls 14- and 15-year-old division, from Lahina, Hawaii, had 375 feet, 6 inches.
But Kayla outpunted her competitors, who kicked the football 121 feet, 2 inches; and 109 feet, 4 inches, respectively.
“The girls I went against had awesome scores,” Kayla said Saturday night. “Last year the scores I beat were OK. I could have had a better score today, but there was no way I was going to beat them.”
Kayla’s pass traveled 85 feet and her kick, 107 feet, 6 inches.
But it was her punt that gave everyone a kick. That, along with her having won two national first places in the competition, a second as a 9-year-old in 2008 and on Saturday, a third.
Competitors get two cracks at punting.
“My first one was pretty good,” Kayla said. “I knew I needed to get a good score on my second one. I hit it really low and solid. It was a good spiral.”
Said her father, Bill Kline: “She nailed it. She hit it good.”
It topped the previous record of 127 feet.
After the first round, Kayla was in first place.
“I felt good,” she said. “Confident. But other things did not go as well. Sometimes that happens.”
Her pass, she said, “was not that good. It just kind of rolled off my hand the wrong way. It was not as good as I normally do.”
The Illinois resident did “really well on her kick,” Kayla said of the 144-foot, 3-inch boot. “My first kick was not good. My second one was off a little bit. But I still had a pretty decent score on it.”
Kayla credits her family with encouraging her to participate in the competition.
“My dad got me into it when I was about 8 years old,” she said.
Since then, the Mifflinburg sophomore has been punting, passing and kicking her way into the national spotlight.
Kayla said the toughest of the three rounds is the passing. And while Denver’s elevation may have been seen as a challenge to some, Kayla said before the event she was more concerned about the weather.
“It’s outside, and the cold can be a factor,” she said.
Mifflinburg Mayor David Cooney said Kayla — who is on the field hockey, basketball and softball teams at Mifflinburg — is a role model for the community, regardless of her results this weekend.
“She’s a fantastic athlete and she’s a really nice young woman,” he said.
Cooney said he’s not a football fan, but that he watches the games to see Kline.
“She makes the whole community proud,” he said.
And her father.
“This was her fourth time there,” he said of Kayla’s national appearances at Indianapolis, Baltimore and Atlanta prior to Saturday. “I am absolutely proud. You never know how far you can go.”
“Two firsts, a second and a third,” Kayla said. “The experience has been awesome.”