Hornets gymnast etches her name in the record books

State Hornet Staff

For Sacramento State junior gymnast Kalliah McCartney, making history for her program is something she considers to be a great honor.

After placing sixth in the all-around at the Seattle Regional on April 5, McCartney became the first gymnast in Sac State history to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

McCartney said she is excited to represent Sac State at nationals and is humbled to be competing on such a big stage.

“All I can say is it’s such an honor,” McCartney said. “It’s such a privilege to represent Sac State on a national level. It’s a great feeling knowing that all my teammates and the staff are going to be cheering me on.”

For the native of Vancouver, Wa., the work ethic needed to get to where she is at now was instilled in her at the age of six, when she first pursued gymnastics.

She continued to develop her skills as an adolescent, but it was during her high school years when McCartney had an opportunity to further her progression.

“High school was the focal point of my gymnastics career,” McCartney said. “I had to make a really hard decision whether I wanted to stay at my gym in Vancouver or move to another gym in Portland, Ore., that was more college oriented.”

It was at the end of her sophomore year when McCartney left Naydenov Gymnastics in Vancouver and transferred to Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland.

The transition was not easy for McCartney, as she was leaving behind friends she had known for a decade, including current teammates juniors Dallas Smith and Kayla Wonderly.

“I didn’t want to leave my teammates because I had grown up with them for 10 years,” McCartney said. “But I knew deep down that if I wanted to make it to the college level I needed to switch gyms.”

McCartney had significant success at Multnomah, leading her team to back-to-back state titles in 2010 and 2011, and in 2011 was the level 10 all-around regional champion.

McCartney’s achievement’s at Multnomah caught the attention of the assistant coaches at Sacramento State and eventually head coach Kim Hughes.

“We knew about the club Kalliah was at and we recruited out of that club many times,” Hughes said. “We were excited to hear about and see another athlete who was a good match, and we certainly found a good match with Kalliah.”

McCartney said coming to Sac State was an easy decision. Not only had they offered her a scholarship, but coming to California was an exciting prospect for her.

“I had always wanted to go to California and when I came here I loved the campus,” McCartney said. “When I met the coaches they were exactly what I thought they would be and the girls here were very open and welcoming.”

McCartney’s time at Sac State hasn’t always been easy, as this year she has dealt with injuries that provided some frustration, but Hughes said the pain could not keep her down.

“She had a back and shoulder injury and it was a tough season,” Hughes said. “She put all that behind her and went into the regional meet and had her best meet of the season.”

Of course, her success at regionals was groundbreaking as she etched her name into Sac State gymnastics history.

Hughes said he was not surprised that McCartney became the first Hornet gymnast to compete in nationals, as he predicted early on that McCartney would be a star on the team.

“We’ve been in Division 1 since 1992, so it has been a long time for me to have an athlete qualify for nationals,” Hughes said. “When Kalliah was a freshman, I think I knew at that time she would be the one to lead us there.”

As she has done so throughout her entire gymnastics career, McCartney will be sure to perform to her best when competing in nationals.

“To be the first one is kind of the icing on the cake I guess,” McCartney said. “It will be an honor to be wearing green and gold at nationals.”

The NCAA Championships will begin April 18 in Birmingham, Ala.