SPRINGFIELD — University of Miami-bound Candace Kieffer will leave behind far more than a trail of dust when she graduates from Effingham County High School next spring. Her list of athletic and academic achievements will remain to inspire Rebels forever.
“This one is very special,” Effingham County Athletic Director Matt Huntley said during Kieffer’s Dec. 7 college signing ceremony in the gym lobby. “Candace is such a good kid, a good student and a good athlete. She is part of our Athletic Student Leadership Team here at the school and she just exemplifies that throughout the hallways, on the track and on the cross country course.”
A few seconds later, Huntley revealed the depth of Kieffer’s school imprint.
“I think one of the greatest honors that was set last night (at the cross country team’s awards banquet) was that there was an award that’s never been given yet and it may never be given again — and it was the Legacy Award,” he said. “Candace definitely does that. She just exemplifies what we want in a student-athlete.”
Cross country head coach P.J. Richards was also effusive in her praise for the future Hurricane.
“Her college resumé looks better than most adults’ achievements in their lifetime,” she said.
Richards said Kieffer’s lofty status prompted the creation the Legacy Award, which features a bronzed shoe and quotes from her teammates about how she inspired them.
“What else do you do for someone who has been recognized so many times?,” Richards asked. “There are very few people willing to do what she does so we wanted to be sure she understand the impact she will have in seasons to come. I thought about calling it the Legend Award.
“She is a legend but she is one of the most humble young women that I know who has done so much. One day, she will be (in the Effingham County Athletic Hall of Fame).”
Kieffer’s athletic accomplishments are many — including multiple Region 2-AAAAAA championships and school records in cross country and track — and they are matched by her academic ones. She sports a 101.75 GPA and owns scores of 1320 and 37 on the SAT and ACT, respectively.
In addition, Kieffer, a 2021 Georgia Certificate of Merit recipient, has served as vice president of the National Honor Society and Science National Honor Society. She was also nominated for the 2020 Governor’s Honors Program (Social Studies) and 2021 Wofford Scholars Program.
Kieffer devotes much of her time to her athletic and academic pursuits but not all of it. She volunteers to serve others in the community, including the creation of a fund to help underprivileged athletes obtain equipment they need. She had raised more than $20,000 toward her goal of $30,000.
“She is motivated by being afraid of not doing the best she can do,” Richards said. “Her gift isn’t in her legs. It’s in her heart and mind.”
After putting her signature on the Miami paperwork, Kieffer showed her humility. She credited her parents for instilling confidence in her aand voice appreciation of her family, friends, coaches and teachers.
“... I want to thank God for giving me the ability and also the support system to be able to go where I am going ...,” she said.