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!
Continue Reading » Big January propels Florida gymnastics to No. 1

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SIX BITS: track, swimming, gymnastics, tennis

1 » Capturing five events while taking home two NCAA automatic-qualifying marks, No. 2 Florida Gators track and field had a great weekend at the Texas A&M Challenge. Junior heptathlete Gray Horn and junior transfer jumper Will Claye each registered the qualifiers, with Horn registering a personal best 5,747 and Claye posting a season-leading 16.86m/55-3.25 in the triple jump. The duo joins sophomore jumper Omar Craddock, who has already registered his own automatic qualifying time.

2 » No. 5/8 Florida men’s/women’s swimming and diving swept the No. 7/10 Tennessee Volunteers on Senior Day at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Saturday. The men won 198-101, while the women were victorious 180-120. According to the University of Florida, “The 97-point victory for the UF men is the most lopsided win over UT in school history, while being the most points scored by the Gator men and the largest margin of victory in a one-day dual meet since a 208-88 conquest over Florida Atlantic on Jan. 26, 2001. The 198 points were the most in a one-day SEC dual meet since outscoring South Carolina 248-68 on Oct. 27, 2000, which was also the last time the men…had a 90-plus point margin of victory in SEC competition.”

Both teams also faced the Indian River State College Pioneers on Sunday and were victorious 165-120 and 157-106, respectively.

3 » Facing the No. 13 N.C. State Wolfpack (1-2) and No. 23 Penn State Nittany Lions (1-4, 0-2 Big Ten), No. 1 Florida gymnastics (5-0, 2-0 SEC) won the fifth annual Gators Link to Pink meet on Friday. The Gators posted 197.50 points compared to 195.3 for the Nittany Lions and 194.075 for the Wolfpack. Florida won all five events with freshman Alaina Johnson capturing four (vault, uneven bars, floor exercise, all-around) and sophomore Ashanée Dickerson bringing home one (balance beam).

4 » No. 2 Florida women’s tennis (2-0) swept a pair of matches over the weekend, defeating the Central Florida Knights (1-1) 7-0 and the College of Charleston Cougars (0-1) 6-0 at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, FL. The No. 1 duo of sophomore Allie Will and freshman Sofie Oyen won its doubles match during both contests. Also victorious in both of their singles matches were No. 7 Will, No. 22 freshman Olivia Janowicz and No. 96 Oyen. No. 28 freshman Alex Cercone won on Friday, and No. 30 junior Joanna Mather did not finish her contest on Saturday.

5 » No. 7 Gators men’s tennis (4-0) was equally successful with back-to-back wins over the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos 4-0 and N.C. State 6-1 in Gainesville. The No. 11 duo of senior Alexandre Lacroix and junior Nassim Slilam won its doubles match in both events. No. 4 Lacroix and Slilam each captured singles wins on Friday and Saturday. No. 52 sophomore Bob Van Overbeek also won singles matches both days, while No. 28 sophomore Sekou Bangoura, Jr. won his opportunity on Saturday.

6 » After starting the season strong, Florida women’s basketball (13-9, 3-5 SEC) dropped three-straight contests in mid-January but ended that losing streak with a 70-64 home victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide (11-10, 0-8 SEC) on Thursday. Freshman guard Jaterra Bonds and sophomore forward Jennifer George each scored a team-high 12 points in the victory.

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FOUR BITS: Tebow, gym, swimming, baseball

1 » Former Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow does whatever he can to make his fans happy. Unfortunately, he had to prioritize his health on Friday and miss the Meet the Players event at the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl, even after fans waited hours to meet him. Tebow, who practiced all week while under the weather, was still “very sick” on Friday, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Speaking of Tebow, the Montreal Gazette reports that the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL hold the first option to his rights should he decide, for any reason, to head North and not play in the NFL. Tebow and wide receiver Riley Cooper will participate in the Senior Bowl on Saturday at 4 p.m. The game will air live on NFL Network and OGGOA will have live coverage on Twitter.

2 » No. 4 Florida gymnastics (3-1, 3-0 SEC) took down the No. 13 LSU Tigers (3-3, 1-2 SEC) in a 196.725-195.05 victory Friday during the Fourth Annual Gators Link to Pink meet. While raising awareness about breast cancer, Florida put up its season-best total and set or matched 11 collegiate-best marks. The Gators hop on the road for their next meet, taking on N.C. State Wolfpack and George Washington Colonials in a triangular meet on Feb. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Reynolds Coliseum.

3 » Florida basketball will face them on Sunday, but the Gators’ men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams each took down the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday to conclude their 2009-10 dual meet schedules. On the road at the Allan Jones Intercollegiate Aquatic Center in Knoxville, TN, the No. 6 men (9-0, 4-0 SEC) took a 164-133 decision over the No. 11 Volunteers on the heels of eight individual event victories. The No. 7 women (10-2, 4-1 SEC) won nine of 16 individual events to claim victory over the No. 12 Lady Vols 170-130. Florida handed Tennessee’s men’s team its first loss in the two-year history of the building.

4 » The Gators baseball team held its first practice of the 2010 season Friday, and No. 7/9-ranked Florida is ready to defend its 2009 SEC East division title. Players and coaches hope to improve on last season’s 42-22 record, which brought them ever so close to a berth in the College World Series. For quotes from the team and some more information on baseball’s first practice, read Jim Harvin’s story in The Gainesville Sun.

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FOUR BITS: Baseball, volleyball, gym, swimming

1 » The Florida Gators baseball team will be participating in its first team practice and scrimmage at 3 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 29 at McKethan Stadium. The event, which is open to the public, is just a precursor to the team’s regular season opener on Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. against the South Florida Bulls. Other baseball events including autograph signings and a “Meet the Team” will occur before the Gators’ first game, so stay tuned. Baseball is currently ranked No. 9 in a preseason poll conducted by Collegiate Baseball.

2 » Florida was named one of four regional host sites for the 2010 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships in an announcement from the NCAA Tuesday. This is the 11th time in school history and the fourth time in the last six years that the University of Florida has been selected to host regional action. The Gainesville, FL, regional will take place in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center on Dec. 9-10, 2011.

3 » Ashanée Dickerson has been named the Southeastern Conference Freshman Gymnast of the Week for the second-straight week. Scoring her third consecutive all-around title against the then-No. 12 Kentucky Wildcats on Jan. 22, Dickerson is the first Gators gymnast to open a season with three straight all-around titles since 1988. She leads the team with six event titles in 2010. Dickerson and the rest of the No. 4 Florida gymnastics team will face the No. 13 LSU Tigers on Friday, Jan. 29 at 7 p.m. in the Fourth Annual Gators Link to Pink event to raise awareness for breast cancer.

4 » Gators sophomore Teresa Crippen and junior Conor Dwyer received National Collegiate Swimmer of the Week honors Tuesday. Both Crippen and Dwyer had outstanding performances in Florida’s dual meet against the Auburn Tigers on Jan. 22.

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