Gymnastics: Portage’s Mackenzie Barcelli named P-T Gymnast of the Year
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent March 30, 2013 11:08PM
Mackenzie Barcelli, a senior, is photographed at Portage (Ind.) High School Wednesday March 27, 2013. Barcelli is the Post-Tribune Gymnastics Player of the Year. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 1, 2013 4:06PM
PORTAGE — Mackenzie Barcelli is probably still smiling — and who could blame her?
“I can’t stop smiling,” were the first words from the Portage senior after the state finals.
Barcelli’s trademark grin appeared at the end of the final routine at the final event of her high school career. Needing to top 9.15 to seal the state championship for Portage, Barcelli posted a 9.65, giving the Indians their first state title since 1975.
That smile only got wider as she accepted medal after medal on the podium, including the gold medal crowning her as the individual all-around state champion. It continued as her team arrived back in Portage as part of a convoy led by the local police and fire departments.
“I knew we were getting an escort through town but I was not expecting five police cars and a fire truck,” she said while laughing.
Barcelli spent the early part of the week fielding congratulations from students and teachers and getting sized for her state championship ring.
“I still don’t think it’s hit me that we won state yet,” she said.
To add to the long list of accolades Barcelli’s received in the past week, she also earned the nod as the 2013 Post-Tribune Gymnast of the Year. Combined with her mother Karen’s Post-Tribune Coach of the Year award, the Barcellis are believed to be the first mother-daughter combo to win the two awards in the same season.
Having her mother along for the wild ride of the state finals added extra significance for Barcelli.
“I guess I got a bit more of an advantage because, not only did I get to spend that moment with my team and my coach, but I also to got to have those last moments (of my career) with my mom,” she said. The post-victory celebration, in particular, featured several family moments. “I remember going and hugging a bunch of the girls, then I’d hug my mom. And then I’d go hug a few other girls and then I’d go hug my mom again. It was just crazy.”
“At first, I didn’t even think about that,” Karen Barcelli said of being both the coach and the mother of the all-around state champion gymnast. “After I realized what a great meet she’d had, then all of the motherly pride stepped in.”
For other athletes, the pressure of a championship-deciding routine may be too much to handle. But, as her coach explained, Barcelli was comfortable in that role.
“She likes the competition and the limelight. That’s where she’s at her best. That’s what she’s been known to do throughout her whole career.”
For the immediate future, Barcelli’s focus shifts to track and her role in the upcoming musical “Legally Blonde.” Her plans for college are to attend Indiana University in Bloomington, where Barcelli could end up on an even bigger stage, as she was considering trying out for the IU cheerleading squad.
When asked for her thoughts on the thrilling end to her high school gymnastics career, Barcelli replied — with a smile, of course, “All I can say is: what a way to go out. What a way to end a career.”