Fitzpatrick wants to captain gymnastics to the top of MAC

Caroline Fitzpatrick knows this is her last chance to win a championship with the Central Michigan gymnastics team. 

Entering her fourth and final year at CMU, the New Canaan, Connecticut, native hopes to lead her team back to the top of the Mid-American Conference.

Fitzpatrick said her personal goals this season are to get back into the uneven bars rotation and be the MAC champion on the balance beam.

A long-standing line of leadership, hard work and precision from athletes like Fitzpatrick has helped the gymnastics team finish first in the MAC in five of the last seven seasons.

In CMU's Jan. 8 season opener, Fitzpatrick tied for first place, scoring 9.900 on the beam with her teammate, junior Katy Clements.

During the Chippewas' win against Western Michigan on Jan. 15, Fitzpatrick finished third on the beam with a 9.825.

With the conference championships coming up in March, Fitzpatrick said she doesn't have much time to waste. 

“It has started to set in that this is my last season," she said. "That’s why I want to have fun this season and focus on that while also trying to win a MAC championship."

Fitzpatrick is one of just four seniors on this year’s team.

When she joined the team in 2014, head coach Jerry Reighard said he recruited her as a one event specialist. 

Through practice and hard work, Fitzpatrick has transformed herself into one of the leaders of the team. 

"The nice thing about Caroline is that she was not satisfied with that role," Reighard said. "She has grown not only in gymnastics, but also in life. Her teammates have noticed it so much that they nominated her to be captain of the team."

After spending her freshman year competing only in exhibition matches, Fitzpatrick worked her way up to competing in every meet and finishing in top spots. 

“I feel as if I have stepped into that leadership role,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve had great leaders leading up to this season, and I have taken that and used it to show our young team what teamwork is really all about.”

Throughout her career, Fitzpatrick has had to battle through setbacks that have made her a tougher athlete today. 

“Caroline has not always had it easy,” Reighard said. “She has had some injuries not big enough to hold her out, but enough to be put in an uncomfortable situation. Those are the things that have had her persevere and she will carry that for the rest of her life.”

Reighard said when Fitzpatrick was named team captain, she didn’t shy away from the responsibility.

“She has really become a role model for this team," he said. "She was not hesitant when stepping into the leadership role and she has really prepared herself for this role and this season. She has desired what she wants and has never looked back."