AU’s Kyra Pelton Designing Own Path On and Off the Field

PHOTO BY KAIT DEVIR / ATHLETES UNLIMITED


No one won more games during the inaugural season of Athletes Unlimited than defender Kyra Pelton. Her league-high 12 wins may have flown under the radar. To be fair, it was hard to compete with the highlight-reel goals of Kayla Treanor and Kylie Ohlmiller, and Taylor Cummings being the best at, well, everything.

But the box scores don’t lie — Pelton was a consummate winner.

The same could be said about her fifth year at Stanford when she helped the Cardinal to an 11-0 regular-season record and Pac-12 title. Off the field, Pelton was working on her Master’s in mechanical engineering, a three-year program she’ll finish this year (after playing once again for AU). The degree is Pelton’s next step after completing her undergraduate coursework in sustainable product design — a major she quite literally designed herself.

“I wanted to be able to create green products … and be creative in the way that we use and reuse things,” Pelton said.

Pelton took classes at the prestigious Stanford design school and sustainability and environmental courses. The major was a combination of many of her non-sports-related passions: art, math and nature.

“Growing up, I loved math and science, but there was a part of me that also loved art and reading,” Pelton said. “I wanted to find something that would blend those two sides of myself, the right and left brain.”

Pelton’s passion for design and sustainability started during childhood. Her mother, a rower at Purdue, continued to compete in regattas while Pelton was a young child. Pelton came along for the ride, and her mother gave her watercolor paints to stay busy. Her favorite things to do with her father included hiking and exploring, which is how she fell in love with nature.

One thing her father didn’t particularly enjoy doing with Pelton: Watching her play softball, the sport she played after soccer season wrapped.

“He said it was boring,” Pelton laughed.







Lacrosse wasn’t an option in Redwood City, Calif., until Pelton entered fourth grade and her physical education teacher started a team. Her father signed her up. In high school, she started to burn out on soccer, but her love for lacrosse flourished.

“It was definitely a gradual kind of love,” Pelton said. “That was good for me going into college because it was new to me. It was something I was still excited to get to play every day.”

Though lacrosse is growing all over the country, Pelton originally thought she’d head east to play collegiately. But a trip to look at Dartmouth made her homesick.

“I felt so far from home,” Pelton said. “I knew I was a West Coast girl.”

When Pelton graduated high school in 2016, professional women’s lacrosse was just starting with the now-defunct United Women’s Lacrosse League (UWLX). Being a professional athlete wasn’t necessarily on her radar, but she thrived on a team of women equally committed to academics and life after lacrosse.

“Pretty much everyone on the team is academically motivated but wants to be the best on the lacrosse field as well,” Pelton said. “It was nice that we were encouraged to find that passion. It makes doing schoolwork more fun when it is something you are passionate about.”

When Amber McKenzie called Pelton in 2021 to tell her about Athletes Unlimited, Pelton said joining the league was a no-brainer, especially since she still had summers off as a graduate student.

“I have a lot to give to the sport and have so much love for what it has given me,” Pelton said. “Being able to play with the greats like Meg Douty and learn from Taylor Cummings last summer was a dream come true.”

Cummings isn’t in the league this year, and she recently hung up her Team USA jersey. Though Pelton doesn’t have the same name recognition as Cummings or Douty, she does have something to offer the young girls watching at home.

“You can do anything you set your mind to and not be limited by what was done before you,” Pelton said. “There are so many powerful women here. I consider myself a powerful woman.”

She’s a powerful woman with dreams of owning her own design business one day. If those dreams come to fruition, the lessons Pelton learned playing lacrosse will very much be front-of-mind as she crafts her next winning strategy.

“Going into college athletics, I didn’t understand about working with others and understanding what strengths were and using that to advantage,” Pelton said. “I think that’s true in the workplace. You have to set people up for success and celebrate those successes.”

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