by Linda Maxwell Stefanelli ’62
Keely Langdon played soccer growing up and set her sights on competing in the Ivy League after watching the Princeton University women’s soccer teams win games and championships. She fulfilled that dream; but in lacrosse, not soccer as she had envisioned.
“I had no intention of playing lacrosse,” Langdon says, until I was urged to try it in Middle School. She excelled and embraced the game wholeheartedly, which came as no surprise to anyone who knew Keely at PDS. A 12-letter athlete, she co-captained the varsity soccer, basketball and lacrosse teams and won the highest athletic honors possible during her Princeton Day School career. She capped that off with four seasons on the nationally-ranked University of Pennsylvania Division I lacrosse team.
“I think I’m just a naturally competitive person,” Langdon laughs. While competitiveness matters, her success is due more to a combination of speed, agility and intuitive game sense coupled with an exemplary work ethic, a large dose of determination and an infectious sense of fun.
Her soccer co-captain, Alicia Siani ’07, says, “Regardless of the sport, Keely was often the best player on the field. But she brought much more to the team than her technical skills and athletic ability. She was a terrific leader and great friend to her teammates.”
Katie Briody ’07, Langdon’s lacrosse co-captain adds, “Keely is a tenacious, determined and incredibly strong athlete. Not only is her physical ability incredible, but her mental focus and toughness were huge assets on the field. She could be counted on to get possession of the ball in critical moments and to never stop fighting.”
“Keely was always a fierce competitor and she elevated everyone’s game,” says basketball and lacrosse teammate Hannah Epstein ’08. “Whether it was a mundane ground ball drill or overtime in the state championship, Keely always gave 110 percent. I can remember bus rides to away games and she would be running me through our offensive plays with pencil to paper, just to be sure we were all ready to do our part.”
For all her success on the field, Langdon admits, “I always felt like a bit of an underdog in lacrosse because I hadn’t played it as long as most. Coach [ Jill] Thomas had confidence in me before I had confidence in myself.” Before she took the draw to start her first varsity game, Thomas took the new midfielder aside for some advice that has resonated ever since. “Coach Thomas said, ‘Fake ’til you make it. Fake the confidence until you earn it and prove it to yourself.’ I always come back to that and remind myself that it’s okay to feel nervous about new challenges; they can present a new opportunity. I think about it when stretching into new roles or taking on responsibilities at work,” Langdon says.
The Crouse twins were classmates and played lacrosse with her for six years. “She literally ran on her toes,” remembers Allie. “She was quick, nimble and a strong runner. She had a pure kindness and care for others that her teammates always felt. She was there as much to have a good time as she was to win and that’s what made her a great player.” Nina adds, “She was aggressive yet played with such finesse it was hard not to stare when she had possession of the ball. She had a way of consistently being ‘in the zone,’ ready to execute plays, check an opponent’s stick or sprint down the field. Positivity just poured out of her: in her smile, her excitement, her determination. She inspired other players to be the best they could possibly be.”
Thomas smiles at the memories and simply says, “She was a standout member of a standout team.” It was a team that for 17 games charged undefeated through a roster of tough “A” League opponents only to lose by one goal to Oak Knoll in the Prep A Tournament finals and, again by one, to Hopewell Valley in overtime of the Mercer County finals. In her senior year, Langdon was a High School All-America First Team selection, was voted the 2007 Player of the Year by both the Trentonian and Princeton Packet, and received the Gold “P”, the School’s highest award for athletic skill and sportsmanship. Due to her high school accomplishments, she was later named to the Trentonian’s All-Decade Girls Lacrosse Team for 2000-2010.
Langdon was recruited to play lacrosse for Penn and in her freshman year the team advanced to the NCAA tournament finals and was ranked number one in the country. In addition, they were Ivy League champions for all four years she played with them. Although she admits it was tough to compete at that level, she felt PDS had prepared her to take on the challenge.
By junior year at Penn, Langdon had hit her stride; she appeared in 16 games, started in 12 and looked forward to a stellar senior season. Then, during pre-season conditioning, she slipped three disks in her back. Through relentless rehab and epidural injections, she was able to contribute in nine games that spring, but not at the level she had hoped.
Positivity just poured out of her: in her smile, her excitement, her determination. She inspired other players to be the best they could possibly be.
— Nina Crouse ’07
She graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in Health and Societies. Her back injury forced her to reevaluate her athletic goals and branch out into individual efforts. Since then, she has finished several marathons, summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro and hiked 40 of New Hampshire’s over-4,000-foot mountains. In 2019, she completed an MBA in General Management at Harvard. Today she lives in Denver, CO and is director of commercial marketing at Integrated DNA Technologies, a life sciences company that manufactures genomics reagents for research and diagnosis of many forms of cancer, inherited disease, and infectious disease such as COVID-19. Langdon is responsible for commercial strategy, campaign execution and new product launches.
“It’s an exciting field to be in right now,” she says. “Sports definitely had an impact on my career and PDS gave me a very good foundation. I learned a lot of resiliency and accountability.” Her style of leadership is the same today as it was as a team captain. “I believe in setting a good work ethic and being one of the hardest workers on the team,” she says. “This is something I’ve brought to my early professional career. I try to lead by example, set ambitious targets and support my team in achieving their ambitions. I’m thankful for the confidence sports has given me to stretch into new roles, manage through ambiguity and reach for even higher goals.”