Mesmerized by the bright lights of Las Vegas, Nick McAfee captured two trophies at the 2012 Blackjack National Men’s Gymnastics Championship on Feb. 3.
The 16-year-old from Camas finished in first place on the floor exercise (13.95 points) and second on the parallel bars (13.6). He racked up 77.55 points in six events for third place in the all-around competition.
“This was my second year going to Vegas,” McAfee said. “It’s wild. Everything you see there is just massive and larger than life.”
The deck was stacked against McAfee going into this meet. Since last summer, he has suffered through every kind of pain imaginable from a broken foot to a broken wrist, a pulled Achilles tendon and a pulled muscle in his back. This season, he has dealt with a sprained ankle and tendinitis in his shoulder.
“I went into this meet with low expectations because of all the injuries, but I ended up doing really well,” McAfee said. “It was one of the best meets I’ve ever had. I’m real happy with how I placed in all of the events.”
McAfee has lived and breathed gymnastics for seven years. Injuries have forced him to proceed into meets with caution, but then the adrenaline takes over.
“Once I found gymnastics, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else,” McAfee said. “It’s my passion, I love doing it and I want to see how far I can go with this.”
McAfee has formed a tight bond with teammates Ryan Dietzman of Camas, Trace Jacquot of Hockinson and Noah Delisle of Vancouver. All four boys are coached by Zdravko Stoianov at the Vancouver Elite Gymnastics Academy in Camas.
“Trace, Ryan and I have been together since I was 10,” McAfee said. “We all get to go out on this road together and share our experiences with each other.”
The VEGA Level 10 boys team is going to Bainbridge Island this weekend to compete in the state championship meet. The regional championship is April 13 to 15 in Boise, Idaho. The Junior Olympic Nationals are scheduled for May 10 to 13 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
McAfee qualified for nationals last year, but then he broke his foot and was unable to compete. This year, he is aiming for redemption.
“To be able to compete on such a big stage would be a dream come true,” McAfee said.