Preps | Times female athlete of the year

Portage's Mackenzie Barcelli is Times female athlete of the year

2013-07-04T17:00:00Z 2013-07-08T14:57:19Z Portage's Mackenzie Barcelli is Times female athlete of the yearHillary Smith hillary.smith@nwi.com, (219) 933-3233 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | Mackenzie Barcelli was constructing her memory board for her graduation open house and trying to sift through pictures of her junior year.

"There were only three pictures of me with my friends," Barcelli said. "My friend who was helping me asked me where were the other pictures. There weren't any. I was so busy, I didn't have time to do anything with my friends."

During her junior year, Barcelli was Portage's No. 1 golfer; she was a gymnast and diver, and she was a high jumper on the track team.

"It was like I fell off the face of the earth, but there was so much I wanted to do," said Barcelli, named the Times Athlete of the Year. "I can honestly say I did everything I wanted to do in high school. I took advantage of everything, and not everyone can say that."

Minus diving and plus pole vaulting, this season was Barcelli's best.

She was the No. 1 golfer on her team that reached the regional. She won the floor routine and the all-around title at the state gymnastics meet, and was second on the uneven bars and in a tie for second on the balance beam. She was a regional finalist in the pole vault, with a jump of 10 foot for sixth place at the Chesterton Regional.

Her No. 1 sport is undoubtedly gymnastics. Prior to this year, her previous best finish in the all-around was eighth in 2011. Her previous best finish in a single event was fifth in the vault as a sophomore.

"My freshman year, I fell on the vault at state," Barcelli said. "My sophomore year, I fell on the floor. My junior year, I fell on the beam. This year, I was the last competitor in our last event on the bars. I knew I was going to fall. I just knew it.

"I had to psych myself into it. I said 'cool, calm, collected on bar,' which is what we always said before the beam. I didn't fall, and I was still in my stance when my team was screaming and hugging me after I landed. They were cheering before I even hit the floor."

The competitive spirit runs in the Barcelli family. Mackenzie is the second of five children, and her mother was her gymnastics coach and teacher.

"We've a very competitive family," Karen Barcelli said. "We didn't see that in her right away. She was a spirited child, and she's been in gymnastics from the time she was in the second grade. She just had a different kind of spirit. We didn't notice her drive to succeed until she was 7. You'd see her in practice, and she wasn't anything special. Then she'd go and compete, and she won the state title on floor. "

Barcelli hadn't been a golfer until a knee injury forced her out of volleyball before her freshman year. By the time she graduated, she had the longest drive on her team and was playing with men's steel clubs, because her swing was too strong for women's clubs.

"She's competitive," Portage golf coach Tim Kunstek said. "She wants to win at everything she does, whether it's golf or gymnastics to pole vaulting to Junior Miss. She wants to do the best that she can."

Though sports fans are used to seeing Barcelli's name associated with sport after sport with the Indians, the Barcelli family knew she'd find something in entertainment.

A singer in the school's jazz choir and bassist in the orchestra, Barcelli is slated to attend Southern Illinois University, where she plans to major in music business followed by a law degree and a career as an entertainment lawyer.

SIU popped up on her collegiate radar almost out of nowhere. Barcelli was a pole vaulter only as a sophomore and senior, and the school reached out to her looking for a vaulter.

Though not her dominant sport in high school, she'll walk on to the track team and hopes to earn a scholarship by next season.

"Sports has always been a part of my life. I can't not be doing something," Barcelli said.

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