Thursday February 7, 2013Mackenzie Caquatto: She's Back in Full Swing
By Sarah Gibson, UF Communications
Just a few weeks ago at the Missouri meet, junior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto accomplished something very few achieve in their gymnastics careers – a perfect.10.0.
“It’s every gymnast’s goal, and what you work for is to be perfect,” Caquatto said.
After battling through injuries last year and only getting to compete in one event, Caquatto took the year to further develop her skills on bars and learned that even contributing on one event for the team still mattered.
“Last year was a learning experience for me not being able to compete all four events,” Caquatto said. “I realized if you do your one event well and you do your best you know the team is going to be happy for you. It doesn’t matter if you do four events or one event; you still do it for the team.”
Caquatto attributes her perfect 10 on the uneven bars not only to the work she has put into it this season but the work she did on the event which earned her a spot in the NCAA event finals last season.
“Last year helped work toward that 10 because I practiced bars every day since that was the only thing I could do for the team,” she said. “I really tried to perfect everything when I did it. I never got a 10 last year, but I think working so hard last year has led me to it this year.”
The celebration with her teammates after her perfect score, which has only happened six other times on bars in Gator Gymnastics history, was one of the best feelings she has had in college.
“Knowing that the team was there for me and that they supported me was a cool feeling,” she said. “It was really nice to share that moment with those girls because they are my best friends too and my family here.”
Caquatto has enjoyed the addition of her younger sister, freshman Bridgette Caquatto, to the roster.
“I love having my sister here,” Caquatto said. “She knows me better than anyone. She can read me and will tell me that one encouraging thing that will get me going if I am having a hard day.”
Having Bridgette there to witness her first perfect score was really special.
“She was crying, she was so excited,” Caquatto said. “I know she looks up to me so it was good to set something for her to work toward and she knows it’s possible.”
The Caquatto sisters get so nervous before each other’s performances that they won’t even watch each other’s bars or beam routines.
“During bars or beam we will hide behind someone else or turn around,” she said. “I probably get just as nervous as she does for me when we are up on the equipment because we want each other to do well.”
Outside of the gymnastics world, Caquatto’s focus is on her future in elementary school teaching, something she has aspired to do since taking an “Intro to Teaching” class in high school. In three years she will graduate with her master’s degree in elementary education and special education. In between taking classes and practicing gymnastics, Caquatto tutors a six-year-old kindergarten girl in reading on Mondays and Wednesdays. For her one-on-one tutoring sessions she prepares a lesson plan, reads with the young girl and plays games with her.
“We teach them the things they need to accomplish by the end of their kindergarten year,” Caquatto said. “We help them improve on those skills by giving them fun ways to remember things.”
The nerves she felt before her first tutoring session were somewhat comparable to the nerves she experiences prior to gymnastics competitions. And Caquatto, a four-time member of the U.S. Senior National team, has competed at the sports’ highest level as she was part of the U.S.’s silver medal 2010 World Championships team.
“It was kind of that same feeling I had at big competitions where I don’t know what to expect and I don’t know how well it is going to go or if I am going to be good at it,” she said.
Similar to how she prepares for meets, she also practices in her classes so she will be prepared when different situations arise while teaching, which gives her more confidence as a teacher.
Looking past gymnastics, it is a comfort for Caquatto to know exactly what she wants to do with her life and where she will be in just three years.