By Dan Guttenplan
---- — BYFIELD — Mackenzie Gray was close to the top of the sport of gymnastics when she enrolled at The Governor’s Academy as a freshman in the fall of 2011.
After nine years of training six days a week for up to six hours per day, she had reached Level 9, serving as a teammate of United States Olympic medalists Ali Raisman and Alicia Sacramone at Brestyan’s American Gymnastics Club in Burlington.
Gray was forced to retire from the sport as part of the Govs’ policy that all students must play a sport for the school in each of the three seasons. The Governor’s Academy does not field a gymnastics team.
Gray joined the soccer, indoor and outdoor track teams last school year, and she is already approaching the top of the sport of track. Last weekend, Gray finished second in the triple jump (38-4) in the Emerging Elites division at the New Balance National Scholastic Indoor Track and Field Championships in New York. She finished as the highest ranked sophomore at Nationals for both the Emerging Elites and championship group, posting the best triple jump of any New England female this season.
Gray’s jumping coach during the outdoor track season, Ray Long, believes her gymnastics background has helped in her quick ascent in the sport of track and field.
“Some of it is definitely gymnastics — having the strength and flexibility,” Long said. “That base helped a lot. Plus, never having done it before, she had no bad habits. She came in and was receptive to whatever techniques we taught. It was like a blank canvas.”
Gray posted her longest triple jump at Nationals by nine inches, which is all the more impressive when considering she had not practiced the event since last spring. The Governor’s Academy does not have a pit in its indoor track facility.
“I haven’t really done anything with the triple jump since last summer,” Gray said. “I only triple-jumped twice during indoors before this meet. I did as many drills as I could around the fieldhouse. For that reason, I wasn’t really nervous. This spring is more important when I’ll be able to practice.”
Last spring, Gray made a major impact in her first outdoor season. She was the Independent Schools Track Association state champion in the long jump and triple jump, and she placed second in the 100-meter hurdles. At New England Championships, she won the triple jump and set a meet record. She holds The Governor’s Academy school record in the long jump, triple jump and 100-meter hurdles.
“I think barring injury, she has the ability to jump at a Division 1 level in college,” Long said. “Depending on how much she improves through college, she could potentially be jumping at an international level. With the distance she puts up now, she could be competitive in a college meet already, and she’s only a sophomore in high school.”
Gray, who maintains a 4.0 GPA, plans to continue her track career in college. Her sister, Maddie, a volleyball player at The Governor’s Academy, will attend University of San Diego next fall. Mackenzie plans to follow her sister to the West Coast when the time comes.
“Both of us have always wanted to go to California for college,” Gray said. “It’s warm out there, and we’ve wanted to get out of the cold New England weather all of our lives. I haven’t put much thought into an actual school, but I want to do track in college.”