McDonald Carrying Her Share Of The Load
Jan. 18, 2006
By Brian Tom
If the 22nd-ranked Washington Husky gymnastics team is to make its first NCAA Championship appearance since 1998, senior co-captain Kelly McDonald will be counted on to lead the way.
McDonald, from Seattle's Roosevelt High School, has no qualms about carrying the team on her shoulders. The only question is whether her right heel can handle the load.
In the span of a year, McDonald underwent two surgical procedures to shave off a portion of her heel bone to repair wear and tear caused by overuse. The surgeries have left her heel as a point of attachment for her tendons and the rubbing of the two parts has caused a point of contention for her tolerance of pain.
Before her most recent surgery in May of 2005, McDonald sought opinions from four different doctors. Eight months after opting for the surgery, McDonald has yet to fully recover.
It still takes McDonald extra time to warm her heel up before practices and meets. Basic daily activities, such as walking up hills and through campus, cause lingering aches and pains in her troublesome heel.
The injury will prevent the former all-around performer from competing on vault and floor for a second-consecutive season. Considering that she is one of four Huskies to have ever scored a 10 on vault and at one time shared the team record for all-around score, her absence leaves a gaping void in the line up for head coach Bob Levesque to fill.
"It's frustrating for me everyday to watch everyone else do it and I cannot do it," said McDonald, who only competes on uneven bars and beam. "I used to be able to contribute more to the team and I can't right now. It's just too painful to do all of the events."
"I think I am seeing improvement in the heel. I think with taping and coaxing--whatever I can do--I haven't let go of trying to do floor and vault this season."
If McDonald were able to fully return, it would be a huge lift for Levesque and the Huskies. Until then, Levesque will scramble to put together a competitive lineup every week. But given the hand he has been dealt, it is not an easy task to accomplish.
The Huskies are young and inexperienced; McDonald is the lone senior on the roster. And McDonald is not the only Husky struggling to stay healthy; 15 of the 16 members on the squad reported to fall camp nursing various injures.
Further compounding the problem, three scholarship athletes were ruled out for the year after suffering season-ending injuries during camp.
"I think it's definitely demoralizing when you see another girl go down or you only have four people left working out by the end of practice," said McDonald.
"I think we've gotten over that stage though. We have started to focus on the people who are able to work out and compete and what they can do and how they can help the team."
McDonald has definitely done her share to help the Huskies through the team's first two meets. She won bars at the season-opening Hawaiian Classic and took second in both bars and beam last Friday against No. 4 Utah. McDonald will be expected to do much of the same at Bank of America Arena this Friday at 7 p.m. against No. 13 UCLA.
For McDonald, high expectations are okay. She recognizes that in order for the Huskies to succeed, she must not only carry her share of the load on the mat, but must also be act as a senior leader.
"I feel I have responsibility as a leader and as a captain, but also because I have the most experience and I want to show everyone else a good example," said McDonald. "As a senior you can count down the days I have left doing this sport, so I try to enjoy doing what I can do."