Nick McAfee courageously ran a youth camp at the Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy on the same day he broke three metatarsal bones in his left foot.
The Camas High School senior organized the event for his senior project. He said 15 boys participated, and about half of them had never done gymnastics before.
“I couldn’t walk, and didn’t have time to go to the doctor until after,” McAfee said. “But I still wanted to give back to this gym because it gave me the opportunity to do gymnastics close to home. I also wanted to get more boys involved in this program. That was my ‘thank you’ to VEGA.”
The injury came at the worst time for McAfee. He had just agreed to become a part of the gymnastics program at the United States Military Academy. He couldn’t compete in the state meet VEGA hosted at the Clark County Event Center. It also rendered him unable to qualify for the regional and national meets during his last year on the VEGA team.
“Injuries are a part of the sport,” McAfee said. “Take advantage of the opportunities you have to compete and be thankful for your victories. If you focus too much on winning and getting to the highest level, you may not make it and feel like all your time was wasted.”
McAfee had no time for regret. He continued to practice, build upper body strength and train on the rings. The hope of getting healthy in time for basic training was the light he saw at the end of the tunnel.
“Getting ready for college is the goal. I can’t give up now, because I know my team will be counting on me,” McAfee said. “Every day that you’re in the gym working, that’s potential points adding up. Every day counts.”
McAfee followed teammates Ryan Dieztman and Trace Jacquot all the way to nationals, in Long Beach, Calif. It was a banner year for VEGA.
“It was great to see them have that success because I’ve watched them grow up,” McAfee said. “VEGA started a boys gymnastics program in this area. Now a whole generation has gone through it. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without VEGA.”
McAfee has been free to resume full activities in the gym for about a month. He officially signed with West Point during a ceremony at Camas High School May 28.
“So many good athletes come out of Camas. It was cool to be recognized as one of them,” McAfee said.
His six weeks of basic training begins July 2. Classes and gymnastics practices start in mid-August.
“I wanted to go to a prestigious school that would set me up for success in my sport and beyond,” McAfee said. “It’s going to be an exciting adventure. I know that I will have opportunities I can’t get anywhere else.”
McAfee will be missed around VEGA. Coach Zdravko Stoianov gave him one of the brass clasps off the rings as a badge on honor. That little piece of equipment has been bent, stretched and twisted, but it has never broken. Much like McAfee himself.
“We’ve been here every day. I didn’t see the drastic change until now because I know that he’s leaving,” Stoianov said. “He’s a mature young man who’s ready to go for the world, and that makes me very proud.”
McAfee endured his share of bumps, bruises and broken bones. It was all for the sport he loves and the place he calls home.
“All of these injuries have taught me perseverance, and that hard work pays off,” McAfee said. “You’re destined for success if you don’t give up.”