Hand gymnast Abby McGuirk has broken 18 bones in her body. Not all are from the sport of gymnastics, some have occurred from “being clumsy” but each tell a unique story.
The latest injury McGuirk acquired may have been the most untimely but also may be the one with the best ending.
McGuirk was able to come back from a broken foot and make the most of her senior season, leading Hand to a seventh straight conference crown and another state title.
“There were some really hard times for Abby,” Hand coach Kelly Smith said. “But she came out of it a stronger athlete, a stronger competitor and I think this year being her last year she really wanted it. She was focused and she reached and fought for those goals.”
It was during a preseason practice in December when McGuirk was working on a new series on the beam when she broke her third metatarsal in her right foot.
“I didn’t start crying because of the pain,” McGuirk said remembering the moment. “I started crying because I knew I was going to be out and have a delay to my season.”
While her final season was on hold for about a month, McGuirk had to adapt to a new role, one filled with more cheering and assisting her teammates. She said it was definitely hard not being able to physically help the team, but knew she couldn’t wallow in the negatives.
McGuirk said her upbeat demeanor comes from her dad.
“He always tells me to think positively,” she said. “Because really what I’m going through is nothing to what someone else is.”
McGuirk was able to get back in the gym after a month with limited mobility, and slowly get back to routine.
“Really the people that pushed me to get back were the girls on the Hand gymnastics team,” McGuirk said. “They really push you to do better and they really want you to succeed.”
Smith said even with some initially watered down routines, McGuirk was able to make an immediate impact when she returned to the lineup.
“She has some of the most difficult routines on our team that earn her high scores and even without some of those big skills, she is a clean and consistent competitor,” Smith said. “So even those first few meets, we knew we could count on her for a solid score.”
But it was the Southern Connecticut Championships where McGuirk had one of her best moments. In just her just second meet competing in all-around, McGuirk put together an inspiring performance, winning the beam (9.5), bars (9.2) and finished second on the vault (9.35) and third on floor (9.15) to win the all-around title with 37.2 points and propel the Tigers to a team title.
For her effort, McGuirk was named the Most Outstanding Performer of the meet. Smith said there were some tears shed by both herself and McGuirk that evening in the Law gymnasium.
“I knew she wanted that title and when she finished her floor routine and she had hit all four events in the meet, we hugged and we both had an idea that she had won,” Smith said. “I wanted so badly for her to get that win and feel like it was all worth it – all the tears, all the struggles, all the tough days in the gym. I am really proud of her.”
McGuirk’s continued to impress the rest of the season as she led the Tigers to their third straight Class M crown and the program’s 16th overall, posting 9.375 on the vault and 9.350 on the floor for 36.9 all-around.
At the State Open, she finished fifth in all-around to advance to the New England Championships.
McGuirk said she plans to continue gymnastics at the collegiate level at Springfield and is interested in studying biology.
With all the injuries McGuirk has suffered in her career, Smith said she doesn’t think she’s reached her potential yet as a gymnast.
“She is a fierce competitor,” Smith said. “She works hard to stay focused in the gym but she sees what’s going on with other athletes and she’s aware of the competition. She always wants to do her best and she always wants to win or at least get on the medal podium.”