Stefani Kildare shares a special bond

Kildare, a sophomore on the women's soccer team at the University of Kentucky, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has ties to an event that makes Kentucky one of the most recognizable states in the nation and around the world.

Stefani Kildare shares a special bond with Kentucky.

Kildare, a sophomore on the women's soccer team at the University of Kentucky, was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has ties to an event that makes Kentucky one of the most recognizable states in the nation and around the world.

Kildare's great-grandfather – Andrew Crevolin – owned Determined, which won the Kentucky Derby in 1954. The horse won several races a year later, before retiring. Determined sired Decidedly, which won the Derby eight years later in 1962.

Determined held off Hasty Road and Correlation to win the Derby and defy the odds. Determined defeated Hasty Road by a length and a half and finished the race in 2:03.

Kildare said Crevolin was a big horse racing fan. "He owned other horses that obviously didn't do as well," she said. "He loved horses and he loved the business."

Crevolin also was married to late actress Dolores Gray from 1967-1976 and was a successful car dealer in California, before finding success in the thoroughbred industry.

During the first Saturday in May, Kildare and her family make it a point to watch the Derby on television.

"We all just sit down and watch it together," she said.

Kildare said the bond with a Derby winner has helped make her transition to Kentucky and the university.

"I feel more of a connection here than I did when I first came here," she said.

Kildare said her family members, especially her grandparents, have always liked Kentucky.

"My grandparents always want to come out here for that reason," she said. "They come and visit the Hall of Fame and they want to come more since I am out here."

Kildare added that her grandparents are avid fans of the Derby.

"My grandparents enjoy coming to the races," she said. "My grandmother loves it, she keeps up with the Kentucky Derby," she said. "They watch it on television, but they haven't been (to the Derby) recently."

Kildare said she wasn't aware that her family had a rich heritage in Kentucky until she became older.

"I didn't pay much attention to it too much when I was little, but it's just something I overheard," she said. "When I came to Kentucky, I learned more about it."

Since she has been playing at Kentucky, Kildare has paid more attention to her blood link to the Bluegrass State.

"My grandparents sent me things about it and I've asked them about it a lot more."

Kildare said she has "never owned a horse" and is still learning about her great grandfather's treasure.

"It's so hard to read up on it, because of all of the things (written about it)," she said. "There are so many books out there and all kinds of memorabilia. There's a lot out there." Kildare said her relatives have different types of memorabilia on the horse and Crevolin. "My grandparents have stuff in their house and we have some stuff in my house," she said. "We have pictures and that kind of thing." Kildare started playing soccer when she was eight and became immediately hooked and has been playing ever since.

"I had done gymnastics before hand," she said. "I just decided I wanted to play soccer. I got into it that way."

Kildare said her involvement with gymnastics helped adjust to soccer.

"When I was younger, I was more flexible and it helped," she said. "I loved gymnastics, but I knew I had to quit because I knew I was going to be too tall. My (gymnastics teacher) told me I should look at doing a different sport and randomly I decided to play soccer."

Since moving to Kentucky to attend college, Kildare has made a successful transition to the cultural changes between the two states. "People are a lot friendlier here than at home," she said. "I love it here. People will say ‘Hi' to me and back home, people probably wouldn't do it as much."

Another difference has been the weather. "It's a lot more humid," she said. "The weather is a little more different."

Although the fact that her great-grandfather is listed among a prestigious list of Derby winners, Kildare said Kentucky's success in soccer played a big role in her decision to attend Kentucky.

"That's the reason why I came here," she said. A year ago, the Wildcats won their second consecutive SEC Tournament title and the only school in the conference history to appear in every tournament since league play began 14 years ago. Last season, Kentucky made their second straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and made its first trip to the Big Dance since 2002.

Kildare played in 14 matches last season and scored a pair of goals in a win over Georgia in 49 minutes of action. Kildare recorded shots against Northwestern, Michigan and Alabama. "Coming in as a freshman, it was amazing to be able to be a part of that right away," she said. "You could tell the girls had been working hard to get to that point. It was really awesome to be able to experience that my first year here."

Kildare said the team will need "to continue to work hard" and keep improving to emulate last year's successful campaign.

"We just need to push ourselves even further, because we want to get further than we did last year," she said.

"We definitely want to repeat as SEC Tournament champions and win the overall SEC (championship)," she said.

In addition to soccer, Kildare has played tennis in clubs and various other venues.

"I didn't play in high school or anything," she said. "Over the summer, it conflicted with my club soccer schedule, so I didn't work out. I didn't play any last year. I play a lot when I go home."

Kildare, a forward and midfielder, attended Albuquerque Academy and was the leading scorer and helped her team reach the state finals three years in a row. As a senior, Kildare scored 22 goals and had 10 assists.

Kildare said she will likely play more tennis once her college career is over.

"Tennis is something that you can do your whole life," she said. "I definitely want to keep on playing."

Kildare said athletics wasn't a big part of the family's history. Kildare's father - Tim Kildare - didn't play athletics in college, but exercises on a regular basis.

"He runs every day, at least five miles," Kildare said. "He didn't run in college, but he ran every day while he was in school." When she is home, Kildare said she joins her father on a route.

"I go running with him sometimes," she said with a smile. "He does more of a longer jog. I can stay up with him."

Kildare said the higher altitude helps in terms of longevity.

"It's nice to train there and come back," she said. "I can come in here in better shape. It helps."

While she's attending Kentucky on a scholarship, Kildare said she wants to attend the Kentucky Derby in the near future.

"I would really love to go," she said. "I haven't been able to go. That would be awesome; I would love to do that. I've watched it o n TV, but I would love to be able to go there and see it in person."

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