15-year-old Maci Prescott vaults into gymnastics championships



Chester gymnast Maci Prescott performs a flip. Photos provided. Prescott family. Click photo to launch gallery.

Chester gymnast Maci Prescott performs a flip. Photos provided. Prescott family. Click photo to launch gallery.

By Greg Hart
Sports editor

Gymnastics takes skill, strength and flexibility. But to take it to the next level and be successful in competition, one also needs focus and determination. At age 15, Chester’s Maci Prescott has the whole package and is headed to Bradenton, Fla., for the USA Gymnastics 2014 Level 9 Eastern Championships, which begins tomorrow, Thursday, May 1. She will be representing Le Studio Gymnastics and Dance in Bellows Falls.

She will be the first Vermont gymnast in 18 years to make it this far, which is quite something considering it is the top tier of competition for Level 9 gymnasts.

Qualifying for the Eastern Championships (representing all regions East of the Mississippi) begins with scoring well enough at local invitational meets to qualify for the Vermont State Meet. A qualifying score at the state meet then earns an invitation to Regional Championships. Gymnasts from all of New England as well as New York compete at the Regional Championships, held earlier this month in Springfield, Mass.

The athletes compete on four apparatus: the vault; uneven parallel bars; balance beam and floor. Each gymnast’s scores on each apparatus and the Top Six finishers qualify for Eastern Championships. Maci finished first in the vault, third on the floor and tied for fifth overall in the region.

Despite being the Vermont State Level 9 Champion in both 2013 and 2014, Maci’s expectations were modest heading into regionals. “I just wanted to do my best and hopefully place in the vault.” So while making it to Eastern Championships was definitely a goal, a setback in the form of a back injury in the middle of her season changed the timeline.

Says her mother Phillisa Prescott, “We weren’t really planning for Eastern Championships this year. We were thinking 2015.”

I was not surprised (that Maci made regionals.) All Maci needed to do was what she is capable of, and she did.

Kathy St. Pierre
Maci’s coach

Kathy St. Pierre, Maci’s coach at Le Studio, says matter-of-factly, “I was not surprised (that Maci made regionals.) All Maci needed to do was what she is capable of, and she did.”

A quiet confidence

When it comes to her competitive nature, St Pierre lauds Maci’s “quiet confidence – I love that about her.” Maci describes herself as “calm and friendly yet focused” during competitions. Her competitive nature shows up in the gym while training and mastering new skills as well. “Maci has the ability to understand that gymnastic success is a journey over time and not immediate.” According to St. Pierre, Maci “knows there are hurdles at each level and it takes perseverance and patience to get over them and to master the next skill. In addition, Maci is very bright and understands the mechanics of a skill and how to apply them.”

Maci on the uneven parallel bars.

Maci on the uneven parallel bars.

Indeed Maci has put in the gym time honing physical skills as well as mental skills like patience and perseverance. She started gymnastics when she was 3 and was entering competitions by the time she was in second grade. “I started in ballet, but I was a high energy kid and the classes bored me. I used to run across the stage and jump as high as I could when the other kids actually attempted to be graceful!”

Phillisa Prescott enrolled Maci in gymnastics classes. Now a sophomore at New England Classic Academy in Claremont, N.H., Maci has been training ever since, typically spending 14 hours a week in the gym essentially year-round. And that’s just training time. Maci is also a coach at Le Studio, teaching a Tumble Bears class for kids 4 to 7 and often serving as a junior counselor at Le Studio’s Summer Camp. “I enjoy teaching the fundamentals that I often lose touch with. But mostly I enjoy instilling the love I have for gymnastics into the next generation.”

Maci’s love of the sport is evident in her hard work and dedication through the years. “I love gymnastics because it is very difficult to master. There is always a new skill to learn once you perfect the old one.”

The vault … doesn’t require endurance. Yet it still enables me to fly through the air.

Maci Prescott

Her favorite apparatus is the vault. “It doesn’t require endurance,” she says, “yet it still enables me to fly through the air.” Surprisingly, in spite of her successes in meets, Maci is not a big fan of the competitions themselves. Yet she rises to the challenge with typical determination and modesty. While Maci admits to being nervous before an event – “especially before beam and lately bars” – she also enjoys the challenge of conquering those nerves, noting that it has gotten easier with experience and practice. “I listen to music for most events, and I sing the songs in my head during my routine.”

Daily goals, skill building

Flexibility, strength and skill.

Flexibility, strength and skill.

Maci also practices visualization exercises, picturing a routine in her head, then trying to replicate it during the competition. In addition to the mental challenge of competition, Maci also seems to enjoy the camaraderie that the competitions offer. “The small nature of Vermont gymnastics means that I know a lot of the girls from other clubs as far away as Burlington. We interact during the competitions, and I enjoy watching all the other girls compete.”

Bigger meets mean bigger skills, bigger pressure and bigger expectations, yet Maci maintains her focus by working on small, daily goals and skill building while letting her coach and parents deal with bigger picture like routines, competitions and long-range goals. As for goals or expectations regarding the Eastern Championships, Maci says, “I want to do my best. I have never been to such a large competition and I have no idea what to expect. I can only focus on having my best performance and let the (chips) fall where they may.”

Gymnastics is definitely part of Maci’s future. “I want to do gymnastics in college, either at the club or varsity level, I’d also like to continue coaching.” St. Pierre is also confident about Maci’s future both in and out of the gym: “I am sure there will be several colleges that would welcome Maci onto their team. Beyond that, Maci will be strong, confident, self-assured and have lasting friendships in part due to her gymnastics success and experiences.”

If you’d like to help Maci with her Eastern Championships expenses, you can donate at the GoFundMe page set up by LeStudio for Maci: http://www.gofundme.com/roadtoeasterns

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About the Author: Chester native Greg Hart is a 1985 graduate of Green Mountain Union High School. He earned his bachelor of Science at the University of Vermont and returned to the Chester area in 1994 to start a business and a family. He lives in Chester, owns Blue Sky Trading Co. in Ludlow and is the proud father of three. He can be reached at sports@www.chestertelegraph.org.

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