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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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From rookie to president

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Photo courtesy of Skylar Hagar

Kaylee Connolly competing at the Texas Gymnastics Conference championships held at the Physical Education Activity Program Building on Texas A&M’s campus in April.

The preparation behind the moments of competition is what most people do not see, and the people behind the preparation are what matter the most.
Flipping, tumbling and bodies being thrown onto padded mats all happen at a gymnastics meet. Kaylee Connolly, president and member of the Texas A&M Gymnastics Club team, once was a rookie who had never competed in a gymnastics event. Yet, she came to A&M and joined the club as a freshman.
Connolly said she had played softball and field hockey growing up but was not introduced to gymnastics until her first month at A&M.
“I joined the team on a whim, just wanting to try something new,” Connolly said.
I ended up competing [in] floor and beam that season. The hardest part of trying a new sport like gymnastics is performing on your own in front of large crowds of people and learning confidence.”
Connolly became club president her junior and senior years and has competed in different areas of competitions.
From New Hampshire, Connolly said she decided to attend A&M because of its prestigious reputation and solid values and traditions. She received her Aggie Ring and competed during the fall.
Former teammate, and now coach, Taylor McDoniel said she competed with Connolly her freshman and sophomore seasons and coached Connolly her junior and senior seasons.
McDoniel said Connolly was one of the hardest working people on the team.
“She is a wonderful person outside of her gymnastics accomplishments. She is one of the bravest people I know,” McDoniel said.
As a junior at A&M, McDoniel met Connolly on the day she joined the team. Since then, they have become friends and continue their friendship as coach and athlete. They worked together the last two seasons as Connolly was club president and helped McDoniel keep the team running smoothly.
After Connolly graduates from A&M, the vice president of the club, Louis Ruffino, will step into the role of president. McDoniel said that it is typical for the vice president to take over the president’s role due to the two positions working closely together for the entirety of the season.
Current teammate Morgan Horstman said she met Connolly a year and a half ago when she joined the team, and she has built a genuine relationship with Connolly since then.
“The most inspiring thing about Kaylee [Connolly] is her determination, but not just in herself; she always encourages others to be just as determined as she is,” Horstman said. “She had just started in gymnastics when she joined the club, and she has come so far since then. She encourages me just as much as she encourages herself.”
Horstman said she is a better person for knowing Connolly, who she describes as a light in the gym who always knows how to make people feel better.
Connolly is graduating in December 2022 with a degree in bioenvironmental sciences, and she said she plans to work in environmental consulting after graduation. While she said she will not be competing in the fall, she plans to continue helping the team as needed.
“If I could use three words to describe Kaylee [Connolly,] it would be driven, kindhearted and empowering,” Horstman said.

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