NEW CANAAN, Conn. – For the past 16 years, Arena Gymnastics in Stamford has been a second home for New Canaan’s Caroline Fitzpatrick. This week, Fitzpatrick will represent Arena for the final time when she competes in the Junior Olympic Championships in Minneapolis.
Fitzpatrick, a senior at New Canaan High, has won numerous, state, regional and national titles. She won the Level 9 all-around and balance beam titles at the Level 9 Eastern National championships in 2011.
“I started when I was 2 years old in preschool,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve never not been doing gymnastics. I started competing and having fun with it, and that’s what kept me going. I’ve never not had fun with it. You need to love what you’re doing.”
Arena coaches determined early that Fitzpatrick’s skills were extraordinary. She will leave Arena as one of the most decorated gymnasts in the history of the club, which was founded in 1970.
“'It’s hard to imagine the Arena Gymnastics team without Caroline next year,’’ Laurie Defrancesco said. “Her commitment to excellence and happy personality has made her a leader by example for so many years here. Starting in the Arena preschool program at age 2, Caroline showed great potential in gymnastics. She was selected for our developmental team, and has progressed to the highest level of Junior Olympic competition.”
Reaching the Level 10 national championships was Fitzpatrick’s primary goal through a long winter of training. She made it to nationals in 2012 and Eastern Nationals in 2011 at Level 9.. But the step to Level 10 is huge, and the competition is even more intense.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that everything I’ve been working for has paid off,’’ said Fitzpatrick, who finished fifth all-around at the Region 6 championships. “It’s my second year at Level 10, so I knew what to expect for the competition at nationals. Last year I saw how intense it was. It made me even more motivated to work harder and reach my full potential.”
Fitzpatrick’s signature event has been the balance beam. She fell in that event during the regionals, yet focused on the remaining events to earn her ticket to nationals.
“I knew I was still able to finish strong,’’ she said. “I had to keep my mind on my task. I knew I had to focused and stay in the moment for the rest of the routine.”
Fitzpatrick will compete in college for Central Michigan. It is a long way from home, but she knows she’ll carry the skills and mental strength from her Arena background to college and beyond.
“It dawned on me the day after the regional meet,’’ Fitzpatrick said. “I realized that was the last competition I got to wear the Arena leotard (girls get regional team leotards for nationals). That hit me hard. I know everything I’ve done at Arena has built a strong foundation for me to be successful in college, and for the rest of my life.”
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