Senior Keely McNeer knows what it is like to set the tone in an event. She knows how important her role is to the team.
Leading off for Alabama in multiple events, she starts every event by finding motivation in her teammates.
“I look at my team and I just pick out one person, and I say, ‘Ok, for her,’” McNeer said. “I say a quick prayer, and here we go. It’s about something much bigger than me, so I trust my training and trust that I’m where I’m supposed to be.”
Heading into Alabama’s meet with No. 8 Missouri, McNeer will play the same role she has in the first two meets of the season. She will go first on the vault, uneven bars and balance beam.
Alabama head coach Dana Duckworth cannot remember the first time she trusted McNeer to lead off an event. She noticed McNeer’s consistency, and it led to her becoming an example that many Crimson Tide gymnasts could follow.
“She doesn’t waste time,” Duckworth said. “In practice, she gets up and she does what she needs to do. There aren’t many missed turns, and that’s why she’s successful leading us off and has the consistency that she does. She’s an example to everybody.”
Duckworth and McNeer formed a bond early on in both of their careers, and now as a senior, McNeer has become one of the team’s leaders. Their bond is built on trust. McNeer has not been taken from a consistent leadoff spot since she first started doing so on balance beam her sophomore year.
Why does Duckworth give McNeer the added pressure of leading off? It’s simple. Duckworth knows she can handle it.
“I don’t know who I trust as much to be that exclamation point,” Duckworth said. “Keely [McNeer] not only is brilliant, but she trusts herself. She has a great deal of faith.”
McNeer was not immediately put in this role in her career. As a freshman, it was hard for her to break through on some events. She would put in the work at practice, but would not get selected come meet time.
“My freshman year was a big learning experience for me,” she said. “I came in here and worked hard every day put all my effort in and was consistency seventh.”
McNeer only competed competitively for Alabama twice during her freshman year, making her debut coming against LSU. Later in the season, she posted a 9.875 in the vault against Stanford.
“That [freshman season] really taught me the whole team aspect of it and how really important each person’s role is,” McNeer said. “Just to be there for each other and build each other up. No matter what position you’re in, you have a role.”
So far, McNeer has posted two 9.825s in the vault. Her best score has come from the balance beam, where she earned a 9.850 against LSU last meet.
Her success is translated outside of the gym as well. She values her academics just as much as her craft in each event. As a chemical engineer, she has been a Scholastic All-American during her first three years. She also made SEC Academic honor roll her sophomore and junior years. McNeer wants to go to medical school when she graduates.
As her life transitions to a focus on her medical career, she still knows she’ll be able to use the life lessons learned from gymnastics.
“The biggest thing is the perseverance,” McNeer said. “After everything I’ve been through, all the ups and downs, it’s just kind of that feeling that if I can make it through all of that then I can make it through anything.”
McNeer only has this season before she says goodbye to Alabama gymnastics, and Duckworth has no doubt that she will continue to be successful in the future.
“Keely is going to move on to the next chapter of life and she is going to be very successful,” Duckworth said. “She is very steady, and very consistent in the way she approaches everything.”
Alabama will take on Missouri on Friday at 7:30 p.m. It will be broadcasted on the SEC Network. As the Crimson Tide looks to pick up its first win, McNeer will do anything she can to improve and help the team.
“At the end of the day, I want to be that person that, whatever this team needs, I’m there,” she said.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports