WOOD RIVER JCT. — February was a bittersweet month for Chariho High’s Mackenzie Fox.
The freshman gymnast was named second-team All-State by the high school gymnastics coaches association and performed with excellence at the state championship meet.
But, just four days later, the Charlestown native sustained what could be a career-ending knee injury and is in a day-to-day mode in physical therapy, awaiting further evaluation and likely surgery.
“I was at a club meet at my home gym (New Generation in West Kingston) and suffered an ankle roll during the floor exercises,” Fox said. “There was a domino effect and my knee got hyper-extended. I tore my ACL, LCL and PCL, sprained my ankle and had bone contusions in my shin and knee cap.
“I was really upset. I had states coming up in club competition and also had qualified for the regional (New England) high school championships.
“It’s not something skeletal. You just do something wrong and it throws everything off. Gymnastics is a very demanding sport on your body and I do tend to be accident prone.
“It could be a career-ending injury. But I do plan on making a return. Gymnastics is a very big and important part of my life. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
Fox competed as an individual in high school meets this season, since Chariho does not field a gymnastics team. Her All-State honor was based strictly on the average of her top-four all-around scores at league-scheduled meets. Her average (33.78) ranked 12th in the state. The top six were named to the first team; the next six made second team.
Candis Kowalik of Warwick Veterans had the highest average all-around score, a 37.49. Just ahead of Fox was Katie Hopkins of La Salle (33.96). Jenna Lamborghini (33.72) finished just behind Fox, in 13th place.
Fox was the only freshman to get All-State honors and only one of two who were competing as individuals — the other being Mae McCayley of Smithfield who ranked seventh (34.09).
While Fox and the state’s other individuals were eligible for All-State, they were not eligible for All-Division.
Fox qualified to compete in the Feb. 15 state championship meet in all four events plus all-around.
She placed second on the uneven bars with a score of 9.1 and finished seventh in the all-around (34.85).
“The bars are my favorite,” Fox said. “It’s so exhilirating to swing around the bars. I’m doing something that few can do. It makes me realize I’m really lucky. It’s the closest thing to flying.”
Fox also placed seventh in balance beam (8.8). She tied for 18th in the floor exercises (8.55) and tied for 19th on the vault (8.4).
Fox started gymnastics at the age of two or three when she and her mother went to a tots’ tumbling class at the South County Movement Center.
“She was always climbing,” her mother Andrea Fox said. “She was small for her age and like a little monkey climbing up our window panes.
“She’s been doing gymnastics ever since. It’s her passion.”
Mackenzie Fox said she signed up for recreational gymnastics and progressed rather quickly. She joined a team at New Generation in the third grade and progressed to Level 8 competition in the ensuing six years.
Her success has come despite a succession of injuries. She broke both of her feet in separate non-gymnastics accidents. And she had separate injuries to her elbow, knee and hamstring while practicing or competing.
“I have struggled with injuries,” Mackenzie Fox said. “But it has taught me commitment and responsibility. I’m willing to put the extra effort into it.
“I want to do it. This is who I am.”