2014 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Repeat?

By Scott Barr – OnlyGators.com Contributor

Coming off last season’s historic performance, which included the first NCAA Championship in program history and its second overall national championship (1982 – NAIA), No. 4 Florida Gators gymnastics team opens the 2014 season seeking to defend the title they and head coach Rhonda Faehn worked so hard to achieve.

Florida, which became just the fifth team in NCAA history to win the national title in 31 years, opened its 2014 schedule last Saturday with a tight 196.650-196.625 victory on the road against then-No. 4 UCLA, a perennial power in the sport. UF will travel to Auburn this Friday for its first Southeastern Conference meet of the season.

The Gators schedule is always supremely challenging and 2014 is no different with home meets against three teams that competed at in the 2013 NCAA Championship: Oklahoma (second), Georgia (sixth) and Arkansas (10th). Road meets include the win over UCLA and a meet against rival and 2012 national title-winner Alabama (third in 2013).

This challenging schedule provides Florida with an excellent opportunity to measure itself against top-notch competition as it prepares to defend its crown.

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History is made as Florida Gators gymnastics rallies to win program’s first NCAA Championship

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

WEEKEND: Tennis wins SEC Tournament, again | Lacrosse routs Northwestern

A devastating start to the NCAA Super Six made it look as if No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics was going to fall short of its lofty goals yet again. Instead, an incredible rally by a tough and determined team led Florida to a come-from-behind victory and the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first in the history of the program.

The Gators became just the fifth team in NCAA history to win a national title in gymnastics, doing so Saturday at UCLA’s home gym, the Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA. UF joined Alabama, Georgia, UCLA and Utah as the only programs to win a national championship in the last 32 years.

Florida finished with a final score of 197.575, defeating Oklahoma (197.375), Alabama (197.350), UCLA (197.100), LSU (197.050) and Georgia (196.675) to claim the school’s second national title in gymnastics. UF previously won the AIWA title in 1982.

Despite emerging victorious on Saturday, the Gators trailed through the first five rotations of the meet due to a terrible start on balance beam to open the competition. Even though Florida was the top-ranked team heading into the Super Six, UF did not compete in the Olympic rotation order, instead beginning on beam, followed with a bye, then floor exercise, vault, a second bye, and finishing on uneven bars.

The Gators registered their third-lowest score of the season on beam; considering the stakes and the competition, it made an elusive national title appear completely out of reach just one rotation into the competition.

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Gators gymnastics one step closer to the title

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics dominated the Gainesville Regional on Saturday evening in front of 7,137 fans at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, winning the event with a 198.400, the 10th-highest score in NCAA history.

No. 12 Minnesota scored a 197.100 to finish second and will join Florida in Los Angeles, CA in two weeks as both teams advanced to the 2013 NCAA Championship semifinal set for Friday, April 19 at 3 p.m.

The Gators were led on Saturday by their three all-arounders who finished one-two-three overall in the event. Sophomore Kytra Hunter scored 39.775 to take the title, posting a 9.925 (2nd) on beam as well as a 9.95 on vault (T-1st), bars (2nd) and floor (T-1st). Freshman Bridget Sloan continued her dominance with a 39.675, which included a near-perfect 9.975 on bars to take the individual event title. Senior Marissa King (39.650) finished third with 9.95s on beam (1st) and floor (T-1st).

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Florida gymnastics wins second-straight SEC title

By Corey Mitleider, Scott Barr (OGGOA Contributors) and Adam Silverstein

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics lived up to its national ranking on Saturday, taking home the 2013 Southeastern Conference Championship in Little Rock, AR. Florida edged No. 3 Alabama 198.000-197.800 to capture the ninth league title in program history (third in the last four years) and become the first team to win back-to-back SEC Championships since Georgia won three-straight from 2004-06.

No. 6 LSU (197.700) and No. 5 Georgia (197.325), two other evening session participants, rounded out the top four as no team from the afternoon session was in the running after Auburn led the Session I field with a 195.550. UF had to beat three of the other top six teams in the nation just to win the league title.

The Gators were led on Saturday by 2013 SEC Freshman of the Year Bridget Sloan, who paced Florida with an SEC title-winning score of 39.750 in the all-around. Sloan registered at least 9.925 in each event and split the title with LSU’s Rheagan Courville, the 2013 SEC Gymnast of the Year. She also tied with Georgia’s Brittany Rogers for the SEC title in the uneven bars (9.950) and was part of a five-way tie along with sophomore Kytra Hunter for the SEC title in the floor exercise (9.950).

Scoring a 49.375 on their first rotation (vault), the Gators started the event in last place. However, two 49.500s on bars and balance beam followed by an event-ending 49.625 on floor (each gymnast scored 9.900 or better) pushed Florida into first.

Head coach Rhonda Faehn, who was announced as 2013 SEC Coach of the Year earlier in the week, saw three members of her team be honored individually by the conference. Sloan was announced as a First Team All-SEC member on all-around, bars and floor and was also honored with a nod on the SEC All-Freshman Team. Hunter was also placed on the First Team All-SEC, and senior Ashanée Dickerson received Second Team All-SEC honors.

Faehn’s SEC Coach of the Year honor is her fourth in as many years and sixth since taking over the program in 2003 (2006-07, 2010-13). She is the seventh Gators coach to win the award during the 2012-13 athletic season joining Will Muschamp (football), Billy Donovan (men’s basketball), Mary Wise (volleyball), Becky Burleigh (soccer), Paul Spangler (women’s cross country) and Gregg Troy (men’s swimming).

Sloan is Florida’s fourth-straight SEC Freshman of the Year joining Hunter (2012), junior Alaina Johnson (2011) and Dickerson (2010) as recent winners of the award.

The Gators have a week off before they host one of six NCAA Regional meets at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday, April 6. The teams joining No. 1 Florida in the Gainesville Regional will include the No. 12 and No. 13 ranked squads along with three other programs ranked between No. 19-36, regionally selected based on proximity to Gainesville, FL. The top two teams at each of the six regional events will compete in the NCAA Championships from April 19-21 in Los Angeles, CA.

The SEC title brought home by the gymnastics team is the Gators’ seventh as an athletic program during the 2012-13 season. Florida has also won SEC Championships in men’s basketball (regular season), volleyball, soccer (regular season, tournament), women’s cross country and men’s swimming.

Photo Credit: Southeastern Conference

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Florida gymnastics looking good through Feb.

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

Two months of meets are in the books, and Florida Gators (7-1, 6-1 SEC) gymnastics sits comfortably ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Oklahoma after picking up recent victories over perennial powers Alabama (No. 4) and Georgia (No. 7). An undefeated month with four Southeastern Conference victories sets up Florida for a strong close to the regular season. The Gators have a pair of meets remaining against Minnesota (No. 14) in Gainesville, FL for Senior Day on March 1 and at Utah (No. 8) on March 16.

GYMNAST OF THE MONTH

Freshman Bridget Sloan
Scoring: all-around (39.563), second in NCAA on uneven bars (9.915 – RQS), T-seventh in vault (9.900)
Highlights: 9.9 or above in 10 of 15 events including 9.975 on bars vs. Kentucky
Awards: 10 titles (three all-around, one vault, four bars, two balance beam)

Sloan, who was named SEC Gymnast of the Week (once) and SEC Freshman Gymnast of the Week (twice) during the month, talked about her experience in enemy territory after winning the all-around and beating Georgia in its arena. “Definitely a different experience and a learning experience. Coming into a hostile environment like this, I really didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “There was a little bit of barking going on, but I think that is what fueled us. We definitely fed off of it and I think that is why we had such a great road team score.”

ROUTINE OF THE MONTH

Senior Ashanée Dickerson scored a near-perfect 9.975 on her floor exercise routine to cap Florida’s victory over defending national champion Alabama in Gainesville on Feb. 8. The score was a career-best for Dickerson on floor exercise and head coach Rhonda Faehn took it a step further saying, “That was the best routine of her four years here, it really was. That was amazing.”

Check out national rankings and more on Florida gymnastics…after the break!
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Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics (5-1, 4-1 SEC) scored the second-highest total in program history on its way to defeating the defending national champion No. 5 Alabama Crimson Tide (3-2, 3-2 SEC) on Friday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.

Florida took down Alabama 198.100-196.850, avenging the Crimson Tide’s 0.075-point victory over the Gators in the 2012 NCAA Super Six.

UF’s huge score was fueled by phenomenal all-around performances from freshman Bridget Sloan and senior Ashanée Dickerson. Sloan’s mark of 39.675 is second nationally only to a 39.700 from Florida sophomore Kytra Hunter, and Dickerson’s 39.650 was highlighted by a career-best 9.975 mark that won the floor exercise.

Sloan and junior Mackenzie Caquatto shared the uneven bars title with dueling 9.950s. Caquatto doubled up in event titles with a score of 9.925 to win balance beam.

These great feats for the Gators came on a night where Hunter, an All-American the nation’s top-ranked all-around performer, fell on both bars and beam. However, when the team needed her to come through in the final event, Hunter registered a 9.950 on floor to help her team to a huge win.

A total of 8,074 fans – the ninth-largest crowd in program history – filled the O’Dome and created an electric atmosphere for Florida throughout the night. Equally impressive was the Gators’ registering such a huge score with Hunter battling a stomach flu and junior All-American Alaina Johnson still sidelined with a stress reaction in her back.

Read about what Florida lacrosse and softball did over the weekend…
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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!
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2013 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Title time?

By Corey Mitleider and Scott Barr – OGGOA Contributors

Coming off narrowly missing out on the program’s first national championship since 1982 (AIAW) at the 2012 NCAA Super Six last season, No. 3 Florida Gators gymnastics opens the 2013 season seeking to become just the fifth team in NCAA history to win the national title (Georgia, Alabama, UCLA, Utah). Florida came within 0.075 points of Alabama at the Super Six last April and has added significant talent while not being forced to replace many routines from their second-place finish. Head coach Rhonda Faehn, coming off the Gators’ eighth conference title, hopes to have her team peak at the right time when the postseason begins.

Florida opened the 2013 schedule last week with a home victory against Ball State and travels to LSU on Friday for its first Southeastern Conference meet of the season.

The Gators schedule is always supremely challenging and 2013 is no different with a home meet against reigning national champion Alabama and road meets against four teams that went to nationals last year: LSU, Arkansas, Georgia and Utah. UF will have an excellent opportunity to scope out the competition it will face leading up to the national championship throughout the regular season, at the SEC Championships and at the NCAA Southeast Regionals, which will be hosted in Gainesville, FL in March.

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