The limelight isn't for everyone.
Just ask Kaylei McDonald, gymnast and two-year captain of the combined Valley Stream District team.
Each year, since joining the squad in seventh grade, McDonald’s skills have shined brighter and brighter on each event.
As the season comes to a close, McDonald is searching for a top spot on the Nassau state team as an All-Arounder.
Don’t expect McDonald to brag.
“I don’t like the spotlight that much,” McDonald said. “I used to be shy when I joined the team. Since becoming captain, I’m not afraid to talk as much. My experience here has been pretty cool. The girls look up to me because of my skills, so I help them choreograph routines or just help on certain events.”
McDonald may not be a fan of sitting centerstage, but her statistics propel her in that direction. The sophomore from Valley Stream South has been a member of the state team for the past two years as a vault specialist.
This season showcased McDonald’s skills as an All-Arounder.
She scored a 9.35 on floor exercise in a meet against Syosset, one of the highest scores in Nassau. She’s won the All-Around at multiple meets ranging between a score of 34 through 36.
Besides the skills, McDonald shines in other ways.
“She’s a gymnast that does everything with such grace,” said Coach Paige McCarthy. “She’s young but she has great leadership qualities. She’s the backbone of the team and she models what it means to be a gymnast.”
McDonald saves her practices for last putting the other girls on team before herself. McCarthy dubbed McDonald an unofficial assistant. She supports the girls, even teaching them new stunts.
“I go to club practice after varsity practice so I don’t worry about my routines as much,” McDonald said. “I get in my practice after I help the other girls.”
McCarthy added, “Kaylei focuses on the team, cheering them on and giving out suggestions. If we learn a new skill, she’s the one teaching it. Many of the girls are new at competing. She remembers to teach them the little things, like how to salute. She’s a leader in many ways.”
McDonald’s light isn’t done shining. The Nassau state qualifying meet is Feb. 13 at Oceanside and she’ll be competing in every event. Her strong suits are floor and vault, but if you ask her she’d humbly reply as long as she works she can win it all.
“I’m going to make states again on more than one event, hopefully as an All-Arounder,” McDonald said. “I’m definitely going to be on the team for the rest of high school. I wat to continue to grow and help the girls on the team grow as well. I’m really proud of all that we accomplished and there’s definitely more to come.”