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Kenli Nettles began having second thoughts about her decision to compete for the University of Iowa women’s track and field team even before she arrived in Iowa City.

But the 2020 Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond graduate chalked that up to pre-college nerves.

Then those feelings intensified after she settled in on the Hawkeyes’ campus.

The end result was Nettles entering the NCAA transfer portal, which she announced on Oct. 1 via Twitter.

“They’re a great school and have a great track program as well,” Nettles told The News-Gazette. “But I’m kind of at a point in my life where being here doesn’t feel 100 percent right. ... I want to be a little closer to home. I feel like it’s a bigger thing that I need right now.”

Nettles acknowledged being homesick at Iowa. Not helping matters is the fact she’s been dealing with a hip injury and spends most of her non-athletic time “in my dorm room all day” for her online classes.

Nettles also lost out on the majority of her prep senior track and field campaign because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The cancellation of IHSA spring sports’ 2020 state series meant she could not defend her Class 1A championships in the 100-meter hurdles, 300 hurdles or high jump.

“It’s definitely been sad and a little defeating as well,” Nettles said. “It makes it hard to be here just because I’m here for mainly two purposes: to get an education and to run track.”

Nettles plans to leave Iowa in a few weeks and return home. She also aims to find a new college at which to pursue her dream of being a Division I multi-event athlete.

Her top choice at this time: the University of Illinois.

“I had my heart and mind set on (the U of I), but I’m also open to other schools if things don’t work out,” said Nettles, who added that Illinois and Iowa were the final two contenders during her initial recruiting period. “It’d mean so much (to be an Illini). It’s always been my dream school. ... When I did tumbling, I wanted to be part of the gymnastics team there. And then once I started running track, my mind kind of switched over to running on the track team there.”

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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