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Commack’s Amanda McNelis is a two-sport star at the same time

An undated photo of Amanda McNelis pole vaulting.

An undated photo of Amanda McNelis pole vaulting. Credit: Pat Hoover

When you’re competing in state championships for two sports, there isn’t much time to waste.

On Saturday, Commack’s Amanda McNelis started her day with a sixth-place medal on bars (9.275) at the gymnastics state championships at Shaker High School near Albany and finished with a meet record 11-feet, 6-inch pole vault at the Long Island Elite Invitational at St. Anthony’s that night.

It’s one day in a whirlwind month for McNelis, who will head back upstate this Saturday to pole vault and run the 55-meter hurdles at the state indoor track championships in Ithaca.

“I knew I was going to be tired, but I just really wanted to give it my all and give it my best,” McNelis said.

The junior balances the two sports at the same time because Suffolk gymnastics takes place in the fall and Nassau in the winter. Different seasons lead to a championship at the end of winter at the same time as track, which she runs in the winter and spring. Her coaches don’t mind her splitting the time.

“I asked her mom if she has to plug her in at night to charge her batteries because she’s not even real,” gymnastics coach JoAnna Judge said.

Time isn’t the only issue facing McNelis. When the state gymnastics team began two-hour practices a couple times a week in the beginning of February, she had little time to get into gymnastics shape after a winter layoff.

“Amanda finished her season and literally had exactly enough practices to physically get her endurance up for her specific event and made it happen,” Judge said.

McNelis’ focus is track and field. She’s No. 1 in pole vault and No. 2 in the 55-meter hurdles in Suffolk, her track coach Pat Hoover said. Still, going to gymnastics practice was never an issue.

“When she goes for gymnastics, that’s one of the best things she can do for pole vaulting besides vaulting,” Hoover said. “She’s so well-rounded and so balanced physically that she’s able to pull whatever she needs from her body because of her gymnastics ability.”

She’s gone back and forth, excelling in whichever sport she chooses each day. But while she’s performing well on the track, the field and the mat, both coaches said she’s one of the most humble people coached.

“If you have a child like Amanda McNelis you have struck gold,” Judge said. “At the end of every practice she’ll walk up to me and say ‘thank you.’ She’s the most coachable child in the world.”

While McNelis said it’s been fun competing for state titles in two sports, that much competing will take a lot out of anyone.

“I’m really tired,” said McNelis as if admitting a secret.

Hoover said he plans to have McNelis practice only pole vaulting before the national championships, which is the weekend following the state meet. Then she’ll get a week off before coming back for spring.

“I’m not going to take a break yet, but I’m hoping after nationals I’ll get a little bit of time off,” she said.

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