Acro Spotlight – DeShay Eisenmenger & Hayley Lemmons McQuaid
posted on 03/20/2020

“Where are they now”

Twelve years ago, in Glasgow, Scotland, DeShay Eisenmenger & Hayley Lemmons from Boerne, Texas, became the first 11-16 women’s pair from the USA to medal at a World Age Group Competition. Shay & Hayley placed 2nd, less than a tenth behind Russia, and are still the only USA 11-16 WP to have made a WAGC podium. Today, both women are retired from acro competition, but the sport made a profound impact on their lives and remains close to their hearts.

Q: At what age did you begin in acro? What was your gymnastics background?

D: I began acro when I was 11 years old. I was a competitive level 8 artistic gymnast before switching over to the acro world. My mother was a competitive gymnast and started me in gymnastics as soon as I could crawl! When I turned 5, I started as a competitive level 2 in artistic gymnastics and retired as a senior elite trio base when I was 22.

H: I began acro when I was 10 years old. I had done artistic gymnastics since I was a toddler, but I was growing quickly, and my coach said I would likely be too tall to go very far with artistic gymnastics. Luckily, I found out about the acro program at my local gym in Boerne, TX, and they needed some bases on the team, so I switched to the acro program. Plus, the gym had just hired some extremely talented, internationally-recognized coaches to start the program, Rumen and Radostina Lachkov.

Q: Your pair won the silver medal for 11-16 Women's Pair at the 2008 World Age Group Competition in Glasgow, Scotland, becoming the first and only 11-16 WP to do so. What was that experience like?

D: It was exhilarating and terrifying all in one emotion. Ever since I first started competing it was my dream to compete for my country, and when the opportunity came for us I was so happy! With this came a lot of responsibility and focus as well, especially competing in a country I had never been to!

During training days, we caught a glimpse of our competition, and I remember telling myself “we have what it takes, don’t let anything ruin your focus,” so when the competition day came I was very nervous. As soon as we walked onto the floor, however, I found this confidence that said, “this is what you’ve been training for.”

We started the competition just wanting the experience of competing at Worlds and were hopeful to make it to finals, but we not only made it to finals -- we claimed that silver medal! I remember when my coach, Rumen, told us “the silver medal is yours!” I could not believe it. We were only .05 behind Russia who claimed the gold. Definitely a day I will never forget.

H: It was indescribable! Wearing the American flag on our leotards and representing our country was such a humbling opportunity. We met so many talented athletes from all over the world, and I don't think we ever imagined that we would be 2nd best among them! Acro was so new to our local gym, and even to Texas at large, so I am thankful we had coaches like Rumen and Radostina that brought so much experience and excellence to the program. We couldn't have done it without them!

Q: How long did you stay in acro after that season? What were the highlights?

D: After that season in 2008 I stayed in acro for another 8 years. 2009 was my first year as a trio base and my level 9 trio won the highest score award at nationals. In 2014 I was a part of the first senior elite women’s group in Texas and finally ended my acro career in 2016 at the senior elite level as well.

H: I stayed in Acro for 2 more years after that season. Shay and I were amazing partners, and she'll always be like a sister to me, but after Worlds in 2008 it was time for us to form different partnerships with other athletes (mostly for size reasons). I formed a 12-18 women's pair with Valerie Bryant, and we went on to compete in the 2010 World Age Group Competition in Wroclaw, Poland.

Q: What have you been up to since retiring from acro?

D: Since retiring from acro I have worked in the sports medicine field as a spinal therapist, served as a student minister at my church, been manager of Black Rifle Coffee company, and am currently coaching the Acro Team at Boerne Gymnastics Center where my acro journey first began! I just can’t seem to leave this beautiful sport behind.

H: I retired after Worlds in 2010 during my senior year in high school. I went on to graduate from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor's in MIS, then I was hired by Deloitte Consulting. I've now worked for Deloitte for 4 years designing technology solutions, like websites and mobile apps, for government agencies. I met my husband in college and we got married in 2017.

Q: What do you think is the greatest lesson you learned from your years in acro?

D: Perseverance for sure and that I was stronger than I gave myself credit for. No matter what obstacles stand in your way, there’s always a solution with the right mind set. When you fall down, get right back up and try again! If you keep moving forward you will get stronger.

Acro is definitely a huge part of who I am today and I’m forever grateful for the beauty and strength this sport provides.

H: My years in acro taught me so much about hard work, relationships, and doing everything with excellence. I learned how to work hard and push through practice and more routines even when I was sore and tired. Even if we messed up in the first 10 seconds of a routine, we couldn't just run off the floor and start over, we had to keep going with smiles on our faces and shake it off. This is so important to do in life and work too! I also learned that strong relationships are an essential part of teamwork and performing well - you have to care about each other on and off the floor and have fun together to be successful as a pair.

Through acro I also learned how to do everything with excellence; you have to pay attention to every pointed toe and straight leg to really create the wow factor in a performance, so the little things matter to make a great impression. I've absolutely carried all these lessons into my life, work, and even my marriage. I'm so thankful for the time I spent in the acro program, and I'm so thankful that I had Shay, Rumen, and Radostina to teach me all these lessons!