Sundberg is also the cross-country coach, and McDonald had demonstrated to him the previous fall that she could excel at distance running.
“When Kelsey came up to me and asked if she could try throwing the javelin, I hesitated because I thought her distance training might be affected [by developing her strength to throw the javelin],” Sundberg said. “She then made a toss over 70 feet on the first day of practice, and I realized this girl had major potential in the event.”
Since that eventful day, McDonald has put her heart and soul into perfecting the complex craft of throwing the javelin. Her effort peaked this year in her final season at East Brunswick when she won the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV title, placed third at the Group IV meet and finished seventh in the Meet of Champions. Her personal best is a throw of 132-9.
McDonald reflected back to that eventful day when she first approached Sundberg about throwing the javelin. Actually, she was “encouraged” by assistant Harry Morris to pick up the spear.
“We had this introductory meeting for spring track candidates, and Coach Morris asked if there were any former softball players in the room,” McDonald said. “Since I played that sport, I raised my hand.”
McDonald completed her first season throwing the javelin by topping the 100-foot mark (101-7) and placing fifth in the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Championships. Her initial success was a preview of what was to come the following three seasons.
To maximize her improvement, McDonald began working with a private coach, Bob Weiss, who put in countless hours helping McDonald increase distance and tweak her form. In addition, Sundberg and assistant Chris Yanazzo gave her pointers.
Her sophomore year was punctuated by a 120-8 throw at the New Balance Outdoor Nationals at the end of the season. The following season, McDonald topped her personal best at the GMC Championships by throwing 125-6.
Sundberg said the spring track and field team could always rely on McDonald to produce points, which helped the Bears become one of the winningest teams in the GMC.
“One of her strongest assets is leadership,” he said. “Kelsey was always encouraging the rest of her teammates at meets.”
The combination of a 3.6 grade-point average and her success as a track athlete helped McDonald get accepted to Villanova University, where she plans to continue throwing the javelin. She will also major in secondary education with the objective of teaching history when she graduates. She was influenced in making that decision in no small way by taking a class taught by Ryan Hynes, East Brunswick’s social studies teacher.
“He made me appreciate history in a way I wanted to teach others to feel like I did about the subject,” she said. “I have a passion for history, and I’d love to have the opportunity to convey that to others.”
McDonald reflected back on her years at East Brunswick with fond memories and as a time she made a lot of friends. One special friend is Samantha Lang, who was also a javelin thrower for the Bears when McDonald was a freshman. Lang and Mc- Donald have maintained that friendship to this day.
Kelsey leaves East Brunswick with the satisfaction of having earned 12 varsity letters (four years running cross-country and winter and spring track) and is poised to continue her career.
“East Brunswick is a great high school,” she said. “A lot of demands are placed on students who want to excel. And because of that, I believe I’m prepared for what lies ahead.”