EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 26, 2013

Around the Horn with Mackenzie Gray, track record-setter

Michael Muldoon
mmuldoon@eagletribune.com

---- — Mackenzie Gray first showed the spring in her legs as a top gymnast at famed Brestyan’s Gymnastics Club in Burlington.

But Aly Raisman’s former teammate tired of the sport and took up track. The Governor’s Academy sophomore from Andover is one of the top young jumpers in the country with bests of 39-0 1/4 in the triple jump and 18-7 in the long jump.

Gray also has a passion for robotics and will be attending a two-week camp at Stanford University. She’ll also attend a track camp at Stanford, which has one of the top track programs in the country.

In this week’s Around the Horn, Gray talks about her record-setting track career, her former gymnastics career and her impressive gardening skills.

What are your personal bests? “In the long jump 18-7 and triple jump 39-0 1/4 at the New England Prep Schools meet (last week) and 15.37 in the 100 hurdles vs. Thayer.”

How did you get into track? “I did competitive gymnastics until the summer before my freshman year. I knew in high school it would be difficult to continue gymnastics. In the spring of 8th grade I decided to start track. I thought I could pick it up because of my gymnastics background. That was at Pike School in Andover.”

Were you a natural? “When I first started, I did it for fun. Over that summer, I did some extra practices and realized I really liked it. I kept working all that summer. I wasn’t too good at the beginning.”

Was it difficult giving up gymnastics? “It was a pretty hard decision. I did it since age 4. The few years leading up to it, the winding down, it wasn’t as fun. I still miss it sometimes.

“At a certain point, I knew if I wanted to continue into the elite, I would have to spend a lot more time in gymnastics. I chose to stay just at level 9 so I could be a normal kid.”

Did you immediately go into long jump and triple jump? “I knew I wanted more sprinting events. I started with the 100 and 200. I tried long jump and high jump. I liked them more. I still high jump for indoor track. I did 5-2.”

How tall are you? “Almost 5-6.”

Do you play any other sports? “The past two years I’ve been doing soccer. I just started freshman year. I was JV this year.”

What do you have for upcoming meets? “I’m going to outdoor nationals in Greensboro, N.C., (June 14-16). As of now, I also will go to the one at Hershey, Pa.”

What are your goals? “Forty feet is definitely a goal. This summer it’s just to keep in shape. I don’t have anywhere to practice. But definitely next season I want to make 40.”

How about long jump? “I’m not sure. I just want to keep improving. I don’t have a specific number.”

How are you doing academically? “I’m doing very well. I’m in some high level courses.”

What do you have planned for the summer? “I’ll be at Stanford two weeks at a robotics camp and a week-long track camp there.”

Stanford is an elite school and a track power. It that a possibility? “Stanford would be pretty high on my list. It would be nice to go there.”

What’s something people don’t know about you? “I have a pretty big garden that I’ve had four or so years. It’s corn, zucchini, tomato, broccoli, lettuce, carrots and herbs. My mom helps.”

What’s your dream job? “I’ve always been into robotics. I took a computer science course and enjoyed how to write code and learn Java.”

What is your pet peeve? “Me and my sister (Maddie Gray, a senior tennis captain at Lawrence Academy) share a bathroom. We’re complete opposite. My side is nice and neat and she throws her things all over the place!”

Do you have a nickname? “Last year some of the seniors called me the Flying Squirrel.”

Who do you follow on Twitter-Facebook? “I’m pretty good friends with Aly Raisman, since we both went to the same gym (Brestyan’s).”

Do you have any pets? “A dog, an Alaskan Klee Kai, and a cat.”

What is the most embarrassing song you have in your iPod? “On the track bus the other day on the way to New Englands, a couple of Jonas Brothers songs came on. I started laughing. Those are from quite a few years ago.”

If you were named principal, what’s the first thing you’d do? “Start the school day a little later so I could sleep in.”

MACKENZIE’S FAVORITES

Group or singer: Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Bruno Mars

Song: Just Give Me a Reason by Pink

Book: in 5th grade, I read Number the Stars

Website: Foodnetwork.com for the cooking videos

What’s your specialty? “I make everything. I don’t think I ever made anything twice.”

TV show: NCIS

Athlete: Gabby Douglas

Car: Some sort of convertible, a Mercedes

Restaurant: A Japanese steakhouse near me called Tokyo

Course in school: Algebra 2

Gray vs. the Greats

Here is how Gray would rank if she were eligible for the all-time area track rankings:

Event Her Best Rank Area Record

Triple Jump 39-0 1/4 2nd 40-0

Long Jump 18-7 3rd 19-4 1/2

100 Hurdles 15.37 10th 14.48