As a self-described “foodie,” Mackenzie Gray of Andover certainly picked the right place to make history.
Competing at the Armory in New York City, the senior at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield triple jumped 40-0 on her third try and 40-0.75 on her fifth attempt to place fifth at the New Balance Nationals two weekends ago.
No pizza for Gray’s post-meet celebration.
“It was an Ethiopian restaurant by Columbia (University) named Massawa,” she said of the site of her celebration dinner.
The modest Gray, who now is ranked 12th nationally in the triple jump this winter, realizes the magnitude of that March 15 achievement.
“Forty is crazy,” said the 5-foot-6 Gray, who also long jumped 18-4.5 at the meet. “I just always want to improve. I definitely feel I can go farther.”
Her “40-40 club” performance ended a long quest since her eye-opening 37-6 effort as a freshman. She had a big 39-3 in the spring of her sophomore year, which she didn’t surpass until a 39-6.5 this January.
“I’ve been trying to get there the past two years,” said Gray on the phone from San Diego, where she was visiting her sister, Maddie. “It was a bit of a relief.”
When she hit 40 the first time, she wasn’t sure if she actually did it. Unless you are an expert in the metric system, the conversions can be confusing. The 12.19 meters didn’t register until she caught a glance of her parents and coach (Steve Suomi).
“There were excited. They were pointing to it,” explained Gray, referencing a sign with the conversion of 40-0. “I was excited but not crazy excited. I still had more jumps. I figured, ‘I did 40, why not just jump farther?’”
That she did. She had tied the area record of 40-0 set in 2007 by Pinkerton great Camille Quarles. The next big “hop, skip and jump” gave her the record by herself.
Gray had to overcome some obstacles. Namely, Governor’s limited winter season and lack of indoor track facilities.
“We don’t have a jumping pit,” said Gray, a former Level 9 gymnast. “I jump onto the high jump mats. It’s not necessarily ideal. We make it work.”
“It’s pretty amazing,” said her proud mother, Deborah England Gray, an attorney.
The All-American triple jumper is multi-talented with passions for photography and travel. She’s taking a National Geographic trip for two weeks this summer to Italy and Greece. She is also quite the cook. Given her track and field gifts, you might call the triple jumper/long jumper/hurdler the Galloping Gourmet.
“She spends all of her limited free time watching cooking shows and videos then replicating her favorites for us,” her mother said. “Lucky us!”
Mom references her daughter’s limited free time. No wonder. She’s also a superb student.
Gray was being recruited by several top schools and chose Harvard University in Cambridge, where she plans to study mechanical engineering and perhaps minor in computer science.
“It was kind of crazy,” said Gray, who was accepted early action. “The whole process went pretty quick. I had been looking at Stanford and Princeton. After I did the official visit at Harvard, I really knew where I saw myself.”
Fab Four AREA Track Performers
Competing at The Governor’s Academy in Byfield, Andover’s Mackenzie Gray isn’t eligible for our area’s official all-time track lists, which in some events date as far back as the 1940s. But she’d rank No. 1 on the area girls Mount Rushmore.
1. Mackenzie Gray, Andover/Governor’s Academy, 40-0.75 triple jump in 2015
2. Camille Quarles, Pinkerton Academy, 40-0 triple jump in 2007
3. Kirsten Kasper, North Andover, 4:49.15 mile in 2009
4. Moira Cronin, Andover, 5-10 high jump in 2011
— Michael Muldoon, staff writer