Big January propels Florida gymnastics to No. 1

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

Only one month into the 2013 collegiate gymnastics campaign, the Florida Gators (4-1, 3-1 SEC) have already ascended to the No. 1 ranking as they head into the biggest meet of the young season on Friday. Florida will host 2012 national champion Alabama, which took the crown last season after edging UF by the slimmest of margins.

GYMNAST OF THE MONTH

Sophomore Kytra Hunter
Scoring: First in NCAA all-around (39.688), second on uneven bars (9.900), T-second on floor exercise (9.917), third in vault (9.933)
Highlights: 9.975 on vault vs. Auburn; 9.900+ on all four events at LSU, vs. Auburn
Awards: Nine titles (two all-around, two vault, two bars, two floor, one balance beam)

Hunter was particularly motivated during the Link to Pink meet against Auburn on Jan 25 as she lost her grandmother to breast cancer in 2005. “It’s the favorite meet for many of us. We’re not just competing for the team; we’re also competing for a cause,” Hunter said. “And for those of us who know someone who has battled cancer or lost someone, it’s fun to have those angels watching us compete.”

ROUTINE OF THE MONTH

Junior Mackenzie Caquatto scored an elusive perfect 10.0 from the judges on her uneven bars routine during Florida’s victory over Missouri on Jan. 18. She is the fifth Gators gymnast to earn the perfect mark on bars and the first since 2009. Caquatto was excited to help Florida achieve the fifth-highest bars team total in school history (49.60). “When I stuck the dismount, I knew it was one of the best routines I did and was happy I could contribute to the team,” she said. “It was a good moment and I will never forget it.”

Check out national rankings and more on Florida gymnastics…after the break!

NEWCOMER OF THE MONTH

Freshman Bridget Sloan
Scoring: Fifth in NCAA all-around (39.488)
Highlights: 39.550 all-around at Arkansas; 9.925 on vault and bars vs. Auburn
Awards: Four titles (two beam, one vault, one bars)

MEET OF THE MONTH

UF hosted Auburn on Jan. 25 for the annual Link to the Pink event raising awareness for the fight against breast cancer. The Gators won 197.650-196.025 in front of 8,159 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, the sixth largest crowd in school history. Florida’s total was the highest in the country so far this season. Hunter took the all-around title with a score of 39.700 (highest in NCAA competition this year) and an incredible average of 9.925 on each event. She was 0.025 short of last year’s highest all-around score of 39.725, which Hunter registered to win the all-around national title.

NATIONAL RANKINGS BY APPARATUS

All-Around: Hunter – 1st – 39.688
Floor Exercise: Hunter – T-2nd – 9.917
Uneven Bars: Hunter – 2nd – 9.900
Vault: Ashanée Dickerson – 2nd – 9.900
Balance Beam: M. Caquatto – 2nd – 9.890

NOTES AND QUOTES

» Florida has battled minor injuries early in the season. Hunter (ankle) and junior Alaina Johnson (back), both all-around competitors, have sat out some events recently.

» Sloan is not the only freshman to make an impact so far this year. Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto competed on uneven bars over the last two meets and averaged 9.888 to rank fourth overall nationally.

» The O’Dome has been rocking for the Gators gymnastics team so far this season. In three home meets, Florida has drawn an average of 5,900 fans, which ranks fourth in the nation behind only Alabama, Georgia and Utah.

» The Gators have challenging meets ahead in February as they host Alabama before travelling to Athens, GA to face Georgia. Florida then comes home for Friday night meets against Kentucky and Minnesota the following two weeks.

* OGGOA contributors Corey Mitleider (@cormit123) and Scott Barr (@sbarruf) can be reached on Twitter. Feel free to leave comments and questions below.

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