Delaware Hayes senior Emily Gray has many talents. But – unequivocally – her biggest talent is juggling.
She played volleyball and ran cross country in the fall, played club volleyball and ran indoor track in the winter, and ran track in the spring all well working a couple of part-time jobs and maintaining a grade-point average high enough to make the honor roll as a student.
“This kid does it all,” former Hayes volleyball coach Liz Kaylor-Palmer said. “She’s just on the go constantly. She’s a positive kid that gets after it, does what she needs to do to not only be the best as an individual, but be the best as a teammate as well. I think that’s what makes her stand out.”
Out of all it – Gray said working her jobs are the most difficult thing. She works at a pretzel shop in Polaris Mall and spends the summer lifeguarding at the Delaware YMCA.
“I can’t stand to sit that long and doing nothing but watching people swim,” she joked. “I can’t sit still for that long.”
During the school year, she’s typically out the door for school in the morning, participating in sports in the afternoons and early evenings, and working the closing shift at her job.
“I played two sports a season (the last two seasons),” she said. “This year, I’ve decided not to run cross country just to have a little more time my senior year.”
“We’re putting a lot of pressure on these kids,” Kaylor-Palmer said. “Emily is one of the beams of light that has come out stronger. I don’t know how she does it, but it impresses the (heck) out of me.”
“I think the family structure for (her) is so important for the types of qualities that have been ingrained in (her) in the home have been a huge part of their work ethic, and (her) success and just the attitude that (she has),” new Hayes volleyball coach Raynard Martin said.
Gray said she used to spend money irresponsibly, so her parents made her pay for her car and all the expenses that go with that. They wanted her to be prepared for the responsibility of life after high school.
“Obviously, because I’m a teenager – sometimes (it’s) really annoying and I don’t really want to do (it),” she said. “I know that they’re doing it for me, so I don’t really mind. It’s just preparing me. Some people have it worse … (they have to) work to support their family, so I can’t really complain.”
She could easily give up sports to focus on school and work.
“But, I can’t because I love it, and I can’t just give it up,” she said.
How does she do it?
“She’s really organized,” Hayes boys track and field coach Sean Patrick said. “She communicates well with us as coaches. She cares a lot about what she’s doing. When she’s there – she’s very focused on the task at hand.”
Gray has always been a good teammate, and now she’s blossomed into a leader.
“She wants to see the team succeed,” Patrick said. “Even to the point where her own success is not as important to her as the success of the team.”
“I was very hard on myself – last year was not as good of a year,” Gray said. “I was still positive because I didn’t want to bring down the team because I was being selfish.”
Coaches are only allowed so many days to work with athletes, so Martin has seen Gray step up and take on a leadership role in open gyms this summer.
“I didn’t even really have to ask her,” he said. “She stepped right up and is running drills and being a leader in that way.”
Gray is a defensive specialist on the volleyball team and runs the 800-, 4×400- and 4×800-meter relays in track.
“She cares about the program,” Martin said. “She’s not a ‘me’ person. She wants to see the whole program succeed. She cares about the people around her.”
She’s in the running at libero this upcoming season in volleyball after playing behind Audrey Hannahs the past three seasons.
“(Audrey) was very good, and she was one of my best friends,” Gray said. “So, I strived to be as good as her.”
She’s facing competition at the position from junior Mia Thompson. But, Gray thinks that competition is not only better for both players, but the team as well.
That’s important to Gray. She wants to be reliable to her teammates no matter the role she plays.
“I think she wants that baton in her hand at the end,” Hayes girls track and field coach Andy Graham said. “She’s somebody that’s going to go and give you absolutely everything. I’d say her biggest attribute is her competitiveness.”
“I want people to believe in me,” she said. “I want to do well for my team.”
Gray hasn’t decided if she’s going to play at the collegiate level. She wants to major in exercise science. She wants to work in physical therapy when she graduates.
“I feel like I’ll miss it if I don’t play,” she said.
Follow Michael Rich on Twitter @mrichnotwealthy or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.