Gymnast Nick McAfee fought hard during the recent state competition in Des Moines, and took home a slew of medals for his efforts.
During the event in late March, the Camas High School freshman won gold medals in the vault and high bar, a silver on the rings, and a bronze in the all-around in the level 10 division. He also qualified for regionals in Tacoma.
Competition at this demanding level is challenging, but particularly this year those successes did not come easily for the 15-year-old.
Earlier in the season, he injured his shoulder and missed three meets. Then, just three weeks before the state meet, he sprained his wrist. If that wasn’t enough to overcome, three days before state he injured the other wrist.
“I didn’t know if I would compete at all,” said McAfee, who made the decision about whether to proceed with input from his coach, Zdravko Stoianov. “But I ended up competing, and I actually did really well.”
That was the high point, but then things turned bad.
In his first practice at Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy in Camas right after the state meet, McAfee was completing a dismount from the parallel bars. When his feet hit the ground, he knew something wasn’t right.
“I heard a crunch,” he said.
That crunch turned out to be a fracture to his foot, which kept him from participating in last weekend’s regional meet. In the physically demanding sport, McAfee has suffered more serious injuries, but never so many right in a row.
“It’s definitely not motivating,” he said. “It’s actually kind of depressing. It’s difficult.”
It’s not hard to understand why. McAfee is a veteran competitor. He won the state all-around championship for four years running, and the regional all-around championship for the past three years.
In February, he competed in his first BlackJack Men’s National Championship. During the event held Feb. 3 through 6 in Las Vegas, he placed fourth on vault, sixth on high bar and seventh in the all-around.
“It was my first major competition with people from all over,” he said.
Despite the physical setbacks, McAfee is now concentrating healing his foot, and then progressing so that he can train and perform at 100 percent next season. He hopes to eventually compete at the college level.
“I’m proud of how he’s handled it,” said his mom Michelle McAfee. “I’m proud of how he has handled the adversity, and performed so well despite the pain.”