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‘Love You Forever’: Meet #NCState21 Best Friends Mary Kathryn and Emily

As part of our graduation video series, these two best friends tell us about their rivalry-turned-friendship — and the ice cream run that started it all.

Emily Barefoot and Mary Kathryn Kinley pose in their grad caps and gowns while holding up wolf ears at the Court of North Carolina. Play Video

When Emily Barefoot’s high school baseball team beat Mary Kathryn Kinley’s top-seeded high school in the playoffs, it set their friendship off to a rocky start.

“MK ghosted me,” Emily said.

“I didn’t talk to her after that because I was so mad we lost,” said Mary Kathryn, a sport management major.

But after seeing one another a few times at Cru events, they made up over a scoop of ice cream and another baseball game — and luckily this time, they were cheering for the same team.

“That was the beginning of our rekindled friendship,” said Emily, a chemical and biomolecular engineering major. 

“We figured out we’re basically the same person, except she’s way smarter than I am,” Mary Kathryn said. “But we’ve been inseparable, I’d say, ever since.” 

Four years later, they have their weekly rituals down pat. Mondays are for “The Bachelor.” Saturdays, it’s pre-football Bojangles’. If Mary Kathryn is having a busy week between classes and being president of AASAP, Emily will surprise her with coffee. And when life happens, they are each other’s shoulder to cry on — sometimes literally.

“I was going through a very rough time in my life, and when I look back to it, there were times that I was in bed crying and MK just held me,” Emily said. “She just sat there and listened to me if I needed to talk. Or if I didn’t want to talk, she just laid there with me. I think moments like that, like, I knew that that’s my best friend and that’s somebody who’s always going to be there for me through the ups and downs and everything.”

With classes and activities moving online due to the coronavirus pandemic, they didn’t get to partake in all of the traditional senior year activities or complete their goal of attending every NC State sporting event. But as roommates, they’ve been by each other’s side through it all — and their friendship has only grown stronger.

“Last semester I was at kind of a breaking point with school and my extracurriculars,” Mary Kathryn said. “One constant thing in my life has been Emily. I don’t think I would’ve been able to get through this year without her.”

When Emily and Mary Kathryn prepared to read the letters they wrote to nominate one another to be featured in this video series, they warned each other not to cry. 

“To know Emily is to truly love her,” Mary Kathryn wrote. “She has a smile that lights up any room and makes anyone feel seen and loved. She may be the best listener I know, and she’s always there when I need her. I’m so lucky NC State gave me such a gem for a best friend.”

For Emily, Mary Kathryn’s friendship made NC State feel like home at a time when she was struggling to find her Pack.

“There were many lonely nights in my Bragaw dorm room, and all I wanted and needed was a friend,” Emily wrote.“I think our friendship is just an amazing example of how one person can truly change your life, and in my case, kept me at NC State.”

Emily will return to NC State in the fall to begin her master’s in biomanufacturing, while Mary Kathryn is working to secure a full-time job. And while some aspects of their lives will change, they won’t have to look far to find a friend.

“We get to be roommates again!” Mary Kathryn said. “My mom always says your college friends are your forever friends. So I was like, all I need is one of those, and I definitely found that with Emily.”