MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Caitlin Buckley is a triple threat. The Mahopac resident is a distinguished college athlete, an efficacious college politician and, if that weren’t enough, possessed enough academic prowess to get into one of the nation’s top colleges.
Buckley, who is the daughter of Bob Buckley, chair of the town’s Recreation and Parks Advisory Committee, attends Williams College in Massachusetts. The school has been ranked in Forbes magazine’s Top 10 colleges and universities for the past several years, eclipsing many of the more renowned universities, including prestigious Ivy League schools. In fact, in 2014, Forbes declared Williams the best college in America, ranked No. 1 ahead of even Harvard, which finished at No. 7. Last year, Williams was ranked No. 2 on the list, behind only Stanford University, but ahead of such luminaries as Princeton, MIT, Yale, Brown and Wesleyan.
Buckley attended grades K-9 in the Mahopac School District before she transferred to Greenwich Academy in Greenwich, Conn., where they had recruited her to play hockey, a sport in whichshe had excelled since she was a kid.
“I started playing roller hockey at the Michael Geary Memorial Rink when I was like 6 or 7,” she recalled. “In middle school, I started playing for the Mahopac modified ice hockey team and the Brewster Lady Bulldogs.”
She said watching her younger brother play got her interested in the sport.
“I remember watching him and thought that looked pretty cool and wanted to try it,” she recalled. “I wanted to join him and we started playing together.”
When she got accepted at Williams College, it was with an eye toward academics—she is a political-economy major—and not so much as a hockey player. But she decided to try out for the team nonetheless as a walk-on. Not only did she make it, she became an integral part of the squad and this season, as a senior, was elected one of the team’s two assistant captains.
“As a walk-on, I really didn’t know what my role on the team would be, but I felt supported by everyone and they kind of became like a second family to me,” she said. “They made my transition here so much better. It’s kind of mind-blowing. We spend a lot of time together; we get most of our meals together.”
Buckley said that as a walk-on, she was treated no differently than the “star” players.
“The coaches took us in and treated us like any other,” she said. “I am really lucky.”
Buckley called being elected assistant captain one of the proudest moments of her life because she believes she earned the honor as much for her locker room leadership as for her play on the ice. She said college hockey was different from high school because the intensity level is ratcheted up a few notches and overcoming that challenge is likely how she earned her teammates’ respect.
“The main focus becomes your team—you are not playing for yourself anymore,” she said. “I am not the most prolific scorer and may not have the most ice time but my biggest contribution might not have been on the ice.”
Buckley said with college hockey comes plenty of off-season workout and training sessions, and that is what separates the best from the average.
“You actually have to step up because there is no coach to answer to,” she said. “If you give your all during the off-season people are inspired by it. In high school, I loved hockey but wasn’t going that extra mile. In college, that is what you have to do. You are lifting [weights] three times a week; running two times a week, and skating on top of that. That was shocking to me and I didn’t know if I could make it. It is something I will definitely carry with me the rest of my life. I pushed myself physically more than ever before. You think you can’t do another pushup, but you do.”
Off the ice, Buckley’s leadership skills were on display as well. The political-economy major was elected as a Williams College Council co-president. The college always elects two students to lead the council.
“I ran with my friend, Michelle Bal,” she said. “I’ve known her since we were freshmen. She had been involved with the council, so she had a lot of experience.”
Buckley said she had developed an interest in politics at an early age, in part thanks to her father.
“I have always thought [politics] were interesting. My dad took me to a lot of political events,” she recalled. “I have always been interested in things of that nature.”
Now that she’s had a taste of the political life, Buckley is anxious for more.
“I regret I never ran for anything in high school and I give a lot of credit to Michelle because I probably wouldn’t have [run for office] on my own,” she said. “She was imperative to me running for the position. I was nervous about the workload, but it’s been a great, great opportunity and I am glad I did it.
“Being involved with the administration was incredible,” she continued. “I got to meet and work with the president [of the college] and the dean. They are hard to access, but they really want to interact and it was an eye-opening experience to get to meet them and know them.”
Buckley said the circus-like atmosphere of the recent presidential election didn’t sour her on politics; in fact, it has inspired her to consider politics as a possible career and to put her leadership skills to work.
“I hope that election will [inspire] people who are good candidates to run for office,” she said. “We should take it as a call to action. You can ignore it or get up on your horse—change the world in a positive way and fight for what you think is right.”
Asked if she would rather work behind the scenes on a campaign or become the candidate herself, Buckley had no doubt which direction she’d like to take.
“I won’t lie and say I don’t see myself as the candidate,” she said. “I am kind of a control freak so I don’t know if I could just wait in the wings.”
Buckley clearly excels on the power play, whether on the ice or the campaign trail.