Tappan Zee senior Kristen McLaughlin enjoys a challenge.
Four years ago, she took on the challenge of playing as a freshman on the varsity basketball team.
“It was something I came into and I was going to try my best,” McLaughlin said. “Whatever happened happened, and I ended up starting my freshman year. It was a big role that I had to fill, and I took it on headfirst and never looked back.
“It was a challenge because I was so young coming onto a team with many older and more experienced girls, and I had to find my way to grow as a player, and at the same time show that I belonged there and was deserving of a spot on varsity.”
No one doubts that this week’s Journal News Rockland Scholar-Athlete of the Week deserves a spot on varsity now.
McLaughlin, a team captain, became the sixth player in Tappan Zee girls basketball history to reach the 1,000-point plateau when she scored 32 points in a loss to Nanuet on Tuesday.
“It’s something not a lot of girls are able to achieve,” McLaughlin said. ” … But even more than that, the success of our team hopefully this year would be more important to me than anything that I achieve on my own. I wouldn’t be able to get it without the help of my teammates throughout my four years of high school, so I have to give credit to them as well.”
In the community, McLaughlin has coached CYO basketball at St. Catherine’s parish in Blauvelt, working with kids in third through eighth grades. She’s also a member of Heroes & Cool Kids, a program through which students at New Jersey and Rockland high schools interact with elementary-school children.
McLaughlin’s greatest challenge has been the balancing act of a student-athlete, adding Hudson Valley Elite travel basketball to her schedule.
“You’re in different states every weekend, having to deal with schoolwork and trying to have time for friends,” she said. “That’s been a huge part of growing up. Dealing with that has been a huge challenge, but I’ve learned so much from playing sports and trying to balance everything. I think it’s helped make the person I am today.”
Her next challenge comes later this year when she takes her basketball skill set and her 96.826 average to Fairfield University, which offered her a full athletic scholarship. She’s undecided on her major.