GRADUATION 2023: Krol goes from non-athlete to state champion

Published 12:01 pm Tuesday, June 20, 2023

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The high school years for Mary Grace Krol was not what one would consider a textbook experience.

As COVID-19 dominated the headlines, Krol was among a class of graduates adapting to a changing world.

During her freshman year at Albemarle High, in-person classes happened like normal in the fall of 2019.

“It was so fun and we did so many activities and stuff,” said Krol, who as of late May was ranked No. 1 in her class.

She especially remembers taking art and health science classes as she set out to consider what she wanted to do with her life.

Then COVID hit, leaving a blur for the second semester in the spring of 2020.

Her sophomore year was mostly virtual, with one week in person and two weeks online, each determined by order of last name.
She said she only had one class at the high school during her junior and senior years due to being dually enrolled through Stanly Community College.

Although she lives in Montgomery County and many classes were virtual, Krol said she often found herself at school because of not wanting to drive back and forth so much and sports, plus the fact that she “enjoyed being at school.”

Krol spent the last semester taking CNA training through the college at Albemarle High.

“Doing that allowed me to make a lot of different friends in other schools,” she said.

She has now qualified to test to receive her CNA.

“Having my CNA gives me a better chance of getting in upper level nursing schools,” she said.

Even after COVID, where many nurses left the field, Krol decided she wanted a career in health care. She plans to attend UNC Charlotte to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing.

“When I first thought about college I was going to go the community college route,” Krol said. “I went into high school and I was like, ‘No medical field.’ My whole family is teachers.”

Then she remembered back to her health science class, then her boyfriend’s mom (a nurse) suggested CNA training. Finally her brother discussed it with her.

“I love helping people and I wanted to make decent money,” Krol said.

She credits the virtual learning to actually helping her decision. Because of the dual enrollment, she was afforded the opportunity to take several psychology and sociology courses and she gained a business certificate.

Sports were also a big part of her last four years.

While she was involved in competitive cheerleading for six years, she was never into sports.

A friend of her sister who was a volleyball coach convinced her to try the sport.

Even though she hadn’t played volleyball, Krol said cheering had made her athletic. She became a captain her senior year.

Even though she hadn’t played basketball, a physical education teacher convinced her to try it.

“I never would have thought I’d play basketball because I’m like 5 feet,” Krol said.

She went out and made junior varsity and varsity the same year and became a captain her sophomore year.

“I’m a very vocal person and very encouraging,” she said.

She had one track meet her freshman year, with the rest canceled due to COVID.

She didn’t run her sophomore year and nearly missed her junior year. She entered at the last second and qualified for regional events.

As a senior, she was active in four events in state competition: long jump, 400 meters and the 4×200-meter and 4×400-meter relays. The 4×400 team recently broke regional and school records.

“Sports have definitely been what made my high school experience,” Krol said.

“Going in freshman year I was very quiet, very shy. I kind of kept to myself,” she added. “Sports allowed me to learn my voice and learn to be vocal.

“I was very into the school spirit so sports helped with that, too.”
She capped off her athletic career at Albemarle with a record-setting performance in the state championships in track.

Along with Krol, Albemarle’s 4×400-meter relay team consisted of Amari Baldwin, Akala Garrett and Abigail Clayton.

Mary Grace Krol celebrates the Albemarle track team’s second-place performance at the state championship. (Contributed)

Albemarle was the only team to finish the 1A meet in less than four minutes, clocking in at 3:57.16 — a new state meet record.
Although accustomed to running the second leg of the relay, the team switched things up for the state competition and Krol was tasked with the first leg.

“First and fourth are usually your fastest legs,” Krol said. “We really wanted to beat the state record.”

She ran the leg in 58 seconds and the team led the whole time.

“We all just hugged each other,” Krol said of the joy after the event. “We were smiling, crying.

“My classes had ended the day before that. To leave as a state champ, and getting second overall as a team, it was just very exciting and knowing I ended everything on a good note.”

Krol also medaled by placing fourth in the long jump with a 15-foot-10 distance. She finished fifth in the 400 meters and fourth in the 4×200. She also received the sportsmanship award for the 1A division.

With the finish at state, Krol’s career may not be over. While she had not planned on participating in track in college, her coaches have reached out to UNC Charlotte to see if she can walk on.

“I’ve been blessed to have really good coaches,” she said. “My basketball coach always told us ‘I’m preparing you for the future. What I teach you you’re going to be able to take into the real world. It’s not just basketball.’ ”