Brookfield Central senior Caitlin Locante is not your usual student-athlete.
You see, Locante spends most of her time 'in space.' No, she is not an astronaut, but she is a state tournament qualifier in two sports and she is an outstanding athlete in three.
Caitlin placed third in diving this past fall for the Brookfield Central swim team. This winter she is one of the top performers on the combined Brookfield Central/Brookfield East gymnastics team, having placed second in all-round at state last season.
In the spring, she is a key member of the Lancers track team when she spends most of her time 10-feet in the air participating in the pole vault or leaping over hurdles.
Caitlin had a head start in diving, starting at 6 years old, two years before she started gymnastics.
Her diving was recreational at the Westmoor Country Club - where she now coaches diving. She took part in gymnastics at M & M Gymnastics.
"I was always jumping around and said 'Mom please let me join gymnastics," Caitlin said. "As for diving, I first competitively dove as a freshman (at Brookfield Central).
Her success in both sports doesn't surprise her diving coach - Carol Rose - or her gymnastics coach - Erin Kokta.
"Usually divers are good at gymnastics, synchronized swimming or dancing," Rose pointed out. "They're perform in space. Caitlin is also helping us out by swimming on relays this year."
Kokta, who also coaches track & field, agrees and tosses in pole vault.
"It's the same moves, body awareness. They have to know when to stop and twist," she said. "There's a 'special awareness.' The best pole vaulters in the state are probably on their gymnastics team.
"If someone is good on the bars, they're usually a good pole vaulter because they understand the swinging motion."
Locante also understands the commonalities among the sports.
"There is a combination of air sense, agility; both divers and gymnasts work really hard to push through fears," she said. "That's not something all athletes necessarily have - a really good idea of where we are in space. Sometimes you lose it. You lose where you are in the air."
Caitlin knew she would be diving in high school, but it took some convincing to go out for gymnastics.
Brookfield East girls swim coach Mike Rose, Carol's husband, knew of Caitlin.
"She was about 75 pounds when she was at Westmoor," Carol recalled. "She has three sisters - older sisters Lauren and Erin (UW-Whitewater) and Ryann, a freshman cross country runner at Central.
Rose knew Locante was special immediately in her freshman year.
"She was coachable. She listens. She's attentive to details," she said. "She was better than any athlete I coached. She was an efficient twister.
I don’t know if I ever met a gymnast that’s more of a gamer than she is.
- Coach Erin Kokta
"Twisting, first and foremost, is her biggest strength. Physically, technically, she does things right. She had a good feel for it. It comes naturally."
Rose talked about Caitlin's second-place performance at state last year. She finished third this year and 10th as a sophomore.
"It was a pleasant surprise," she said. "We were hoping to just be on the podium (top 6). She moved from fifth to second. It was an awesome surprise. It's not the way it usually goes.
"Caitlin has an incredible mental makeup. She goes out and just does her best on any given day, not wanting to let anyone down."
Getting Locante to come out for gymnastics was an entirely different story and it took some persistent recruiting by Kokta.
"I saw her as a freshman diver," Kokta recalled. "She was hesitant to join the high school team. I watched her dive at meets and introduced myself. I told her I would love for her to come to meeting."
When asked when Kokta knew she had something special in Caitlin, she didn't hesitate.
"The second she showed up," she said. "There are different types of gymnasts. Power gymnasts and elegant gymnasts. She definitely has that elegance and she twists. The second I saw her twist on the floor, I said this kid is going to be good."
Locante explained why she was hesitant to go out for the gymnastics team initially.
"I was invested in our club team," she said. "But once I did high school diving, I thought it would be best for me to do high school diving and high school gymnastics."
Most of the time divers (Rose coaches Central and East divers, even though the teams are separate) and swimmers don't even practice at the same time. But that didn't stop Caitlin from keeping the team together.
"I make a huge effort to be part of the swim and dive team," she said. "We are a close team in both of them (swimming and diving)."
As for the gymnastics team, Kokta sees the same attitude.
"She always organizes carbo crams, going out to eat together," she said. "She loves be part of the high school team."
Looking back, Kokta felt that not qualifying for state as a freshman probably helped Locante.
"I think that was the best thing that could have happened to her," she said. "She definitely wanted it more. She had all the potential. It just wasn't in the cards for her that year even though she was awesome that entire season."
Caitlin said her best event is the floor exercise.
"It's my favorite because I just get to express myself," she said. "It just truly shows who I am as a gymnast. I honestly just go out there and give it my all. I create my own routines. I also help my teammates choreograph theirs."
Kokta agreed with Locante's assessment and went on to bring up an example of her talents.
"She loves floor," Kokta said. "She's really good on floor. She has great presentation. She will spend a long time choreographing her routine.
"But she is also one of the best bar workers in the state. Last year at state meet she hadn't qualified for bars and she scored the highest bar score in the entire state meet to finish to finish second in the all-around."
Locante, who is a captain in diving and gymnastics, is a leader on her team.
Locante, who is a captain in diving and gymnastics, is a leader on her team.
"She's really supportive of her teammates," Kokta said, also pointing out that Olga Bouhkualova and Christina Kirmis are also team captains. "We have 25 girls all at different levels. So Caitlin helps out, give corrections. She has so much experience in the sport.
"She's great. She has a bubbly personality, is positive at meets and cheers for all of her teammates. She's become a good leader."
Rose pointed out she relied on Caitlin to help out with the divers, especially when Rose was working with one of the eight other divers individually.
"I think I'm a good leader," Locante said. "I show my teammates what it takes to be a good gymnast, a good diver. It's ultimately up to them if they want to follow me, look up to me. I try my best to help them out. I show them how to work hard. If they see that every day, they will say I'm going to do that too."
Caitlin talked about her strengths and what she needs to improve on.
In diving, it's twisting," she said. "One of the categories is twisters. It's really something that has always come easy to me. It doesn't always come easy to other people. It's really fun.
"In gymnastics my composure as a gymnast is one of my strengths. On the floor I really put personality into my routines when I'm competing. That's definitely a strength that I have."
She also talked about some areas she needs to get better with.
In diving I really need to work on going in on my head a little more," she said. "I made huge strides with that this year. That's something a little goofy for me. I do do it, but I have to do it more, I think."
In diving each athlete gets 11 dives; two from each category - front, back, inward, reverses and twisters. One of the categories they can do three dives from.
"In gymnastics I have to work on my power, because I'm more of a graceful gymnast," she pointed out.
Kokta then gave Locante one of the highest compliments you can give an athlete when asked about her strengths.
"I don't know if I ever met a gymnast that's more of a gamer than she is. Here's an example.
"She hadn't gotten through a full bar routine yet because it takes time to get all that stuff back. Last week she just pulled it out at our meet. It was the first time she had done it all season. She shows up at the meets jumping higher, twisting better than I have ever seen her do. I have never seen anyone just turn it on like she can in meets."
As good an athlete Locante is, both coaches appreciate her away from the sport as well.
"Caitlin is probably pretty social," Rose said. "She has a lot of spunk. spending time with friends, with sports, with part of a team. She's a good student, smart, confident and loves to compete."
Kokta added laughing.
"She's a goofball, man. She cracks me up."
QUESTIONS FOR CAITLIN LOCANTE
- FAVORITE FOOD: All Italian Food, Olives.
- FAVORITE MUSIC/GROUP: Pop.
- FAVORITE MOVIE: Disney Movies.
- FAVORITE TV SHOW: Grey's Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, One Three Hill.
- FAVORITE CLASS: Anatomy/Physiology
- FAVORITE PLACE YOU VISITED: Germany.
- WHAT DO YOU DO TO RELAX? Netflix, Sleep.
- FAVORITE SPORTS RIVALRY/ATHLETE: Whitefish Bay
- MOST MEMORABLE SPORTS MOMENT: Junior year finishing second in diving at state.
- WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO IN THE FUTURE? Attend college and dive.