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Wednesday, June 12, 2024

In the week that flowed into the Southeastern Conference Championships, freshman Mackenzie Caquatto was ready to go.

She had an impressive performance in the intrasquad competition, and her energy was high heading into the SEC meet.

But a mere five days before the championships, she rolled her ankle in practice Monday. 

Frustrated, she asked herself, “Why me? Why now?”

The team’s trainer, Stacey Higgins, said a rolled or sprained ankle is the most common injury, not only in gymnastics and sports, but in everyday life.

“That’s just how people are built in general,” Higgins said. “You take a sport where they have no shoes, and you’re going to get more of that.”

Because of her ankle, Caquatto, who posted one of the top all-around scores of the season, could only compete on bars in SECs.

However, Caquatto was lively in practice this Tuesday, her ankle almost fully healed, and she is set to return to beam in this weekend’s NCAA North Central Regional Championships in Denver.

“Being able to have Macko in on two events and having her prepared and ready to do four events for nationals is our goal,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

After a second-place finish at SECs March 19, Faehn admitted her team wasn’t fully healthy during competition.

Caquatto had an ankle injury, all-around star Ashanée Dickerson had a stomach flu, and Marissa King was suffering ankle pain.

Even Faehn herself was under the weather that weekend, she said.

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But with a week off from competition and the regional meet in sight, Faehn said the team is looking much better — and much healthier.

Dickerson said she is feeling a lot better, Caquatto’s ankle is mended and King will be able to perform the double layout in her floor routine.

Faehn admitted a long season with a hefty load of competitions makes the tail end of the year difficult for the gymnasts both physically and mentally. 

Caquatto was used to performing in elite gymnastics, where she had about five competitions a year. She said competing almost every weekend has been a big change and an even bigger challenge.

“Taking all the hard landings, it does take a toll on your body,” she said. “By this time of the season, everyone’s just like, ‘We’ve got to make it through.’”

Because of the fatigue, Faehn said, the coaching staff also has to be especially careful regarding its training decisions at this point of the season.

“If they don’t train, they’re not able to get the numbers in,” Faehn said. “If they’re not able to get the reps in, then they lose confidence.

“They still have to be able to do it, but we have to be smart also combining short training days with mental imagery and really focusing on the mental aspect of it as well.”

But Faehn made it clear this occurs every single year across the board in gymnastics, no matter which team it is or how many gymnasts are dinged up heading into the postseason.

“Everybody is in the same boat,” she said. “It’s those athletes that are strong enough mentally and physically to be able to push through this hard time that are the ones who are going to be the most successful.”

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