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Thursday, February 29, 2024
<p>Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.</p>

Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.

At 5-foot-3, Bridgette Caquatto doesn’t stand out among her fellow UF gymnasts when they all crowd around to watch a teammates’ routine.

They all jump, yell and cheer their loudest during each routine on any given Friday night. Caquatto jumps, yells and cheers just like they do.

Her hair is a typical light brown. Depending on the lighting, three to four of her Gator teammates share the same color.

She is quiet and soft-spoken, humble and unassuming. She would much rather talk about her team than herself.

There’s no over-the-top personality.

There’s no signature event.

There’s no wow-factor.

Caquatto fades into the background without a second thought. And often, no one gives her a second thought because of it.

But that would be a mistake.

While stars like Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter get most of the attention from fans and media, Caquatto has become one of Florida’s most reliable contributors. Although she has never scored a perfect 10, the junior can almost always be counted on for a consistently good routine.

This year, she has scored at least a 9.875 in 23 of 31 tries.

And lost in the shuffle of Sloan’s perfect 10 and Florida’s beam debacle during the Southeastern Conference Championships was Caquatto’s performance — two 9.95s on bars and floor, arguably her best meet of the year.

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Yet, few seem to have noticed. That’s fine with Caquatto, though.

“I’ve heard from a couple people before that (I’m) always kind of under the radar, but I think that’s a good spot to be in,” she said. “I feel like people can always count on you in that spot and you’re kind of behind the scenes, working hard in order to help the team.”

While some athletes feed off of what other people say about them, Caquatto’s motivation is internal and doesn’t need outside attention, whether it be good or bad.

“I’m not really all about the media being all about me or anything,” she said. “I like to just keep to myself a little bit and do good for the satisfaction of myself, knowing that I worked hard.”

“I don’t really need the acceptance of thousands of people to make me motivated and want to work hard.”

When she first arrived at Florida, she had even less of an identity to outsiders than she does now. She entered her freshman season recovering from surgery for a torn rotator cuff and didn’t compete until midway through the year — and only a handful of times, at that.

“My freshman year I was — I don’t wanna say a nobody, but I didn’t do anything my freshman year,” she said.

Her sister, Mackenzie Caquatto, was also in the midst of becoming one of the Gators’ top gymnasts, so the only recognition the younger Caquatto got was when she was referred to as “Macko’s little sister.”

She retained that title through her sophomore year — Mackenzie’s senior season — but she began to develop into a decent gymnast while gaining confidence in her abilities.

She competed in every vault, bars and floor lineup that year and clinched a share of the national title for Florida in the final routine with a 9.95 on floor.

Now in her third season, she knows how good she can be and wants to be able to fill the void left by her sister and other top performers who graduated from a year ago.

It isn’t from a desire to make a name for herself.

It isn’t from a desire to get out of her from under her sister’s shadow.

She just wants to give her best, and she wants it badly.

Don’t let her smile and bubbly personality fool you.

She might not be as vocal as Sloan or as intense as Hunter, but she cares just as much.

Outsiders might not realize it, but her teammates know what she gives to the team.

“Having her as the backbone, just keeping the team up and motivated and getting high scores has definitely meant a lot to all of us,” Hunter said.

And for this season, the best is likely still on the horizon.

Caquatto has had her best performances on podium in the SECs and NCAAs throughout her career, and her performance two weeks ago only backs that up.

Because of what it means to her team, it’s the only time of the year when she doesn’t mind being noticed.

“I like being under (the radar) the entire time and then when I get to the postseason I like to make an entrance and kind of show everybody what I’m all about,” she said.

Follow Graham Hack on Twitter @graham_hack24

Bridgette Caquatto performs her floor exercise routine during the Southeastern Conference Championships on March 21 at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.

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