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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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.

Continue Reading » 2013 Florida Gators gymnastics primer: Title time?

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Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

Eight former letterwinners – including Gator Greats Rex Grossman (football), Heather Mitts (soccer), Mike Pearson (football) and Josh Fogg (baseball) – and one honorary letterwinner will be inducted as the UF Athletic Hall of Fame‘s 2013 class.

The F Club and Gator Boosters, Inc. announced Monday that the honors will be bestowed upon these former players at the Hall of Fame Banquet on April 5, 2013 in the Holloway Touchdown Terrace at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Inductees are normally divided into three categories: Gator Greats, Distinguished Letterwinners and Honorary Letterwinners. The remainder of the 2013 class includes Gator Greats Jeff Davis (wrestling), Riko Higashio (women’s golf) and Chrissy Van Fleet (gymnastics) as well as Distinguished Letterwinner Larry Morris (football) and Honorary Letterwinner Ernestine Russell Weaver (gymnastics).

Read more about each inductee and their career accomplishments…
Continue Reading » Grossman, Mitts, Pearson, Fogg headline UF Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2013 inductees

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SIX BITS: Beal, Olympics, Cup awards, Crawford

1 » Could Florida Gators freshman guard Bradley Beal be the decided target of the Washington Wizards with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft on June 28? That appears to be the case after Washington completed a trade on Wednesday that sent a small forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round pick to New Orleans for SF Trevor Ariza and power forward/center Emeka Okafor. By adding two talented, starting-caliber frontcourt players, the chances that the Wizards would select a forward like Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Kansas’ Thomas Robinson (if he was even available) have been reduced significantly, meaning Beal could very well be the top player on their board with the draft just over a week away.

2 » Speaking of Beal, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla wrote Wednesday about what weakness Beal needs to improve on ($) in order to have a productive NBA career.

Beal’s screen-and-roll ability in Billy Donovan‘s screen-and-roll-oriented offense was average at best. Often when challenged by the screener’s defender (usually a big man), Beal was not able to take him on and beat him off the dribble. Ultimately, Beal shot just 35 percent in the screen-and-roll, and his overall points produced for himself or his teammates was a paltry 0.7 points per possession.

Part of the reason Beal struggled in the screen-and-roll is that he is a straight-line driver. I don’t doubt that he has been working hard on his ballhandling creativity. If he is going to be more than a one-dimensional jump-shooter, he’ll be handling the ball a lot, especially because the NBA’s 24-second shot clock demands it.

3 » The 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for track & field begin Friday in Eugene, OR with 17 total current and former Gators hoping to earn the opportunity to compete in the2012 London Olympics. Among those participating in the trials over the next 11 days are 10 current Florida student-athletes including: senior/junior Dwight Barbiasz (high jump), junior Omar Craddock (triple jump), junior/senior Jeff Demps (100-meter dash), freshman Marquis Dendy (long jump), freshman Dedric Dukes (200-meter dash), sophomore Ebony Eutsey (400-meter dash), sophomore Eddie Lovett (110-meter hurdles), sophomore Cory McGee (1,500-meter run), junior Tony McQuay (400-meter dash) and junior Jeremy Postin (hammer throw). Former Gators set to compete include: Hazel Clark (800-meter dash), Will Claye (long jump, triple jump), Kerron Clement (400-meter hurdles), Gray Horn (decathlon), Calvin Smith (400-meter dash), Wes Stockbarger (discus throw) and Christian Taylor (triple jump).

4 » The University of Florida athletic program finished No. 2 in the nation in the 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors’ Cup. Twelve Florida programs finished among the top 10 of their respective sport nationally including women’s tennis (No. 1), men’s indoor track & field (No. 1), men’s outdoor track & field (No. 1), gymnastics (No. 2), lacrosse (No. 3), men’s basketball (No. 5), volleyball (No. 5), baseball (No. 7), men’s swimming & diving (No. 8), women’s indoor track & field (No. 9), men’s tennis (No. 9) and women’s swimming and diving (No. 10). It is the fourth-straight year that the Gators have finished in the top four of the Cup’s final rankings and second time in the last three years (2009-10). Florida has never won the Cup but has finished in the top 10 in each of the 29 years it has been awarded. Stanford won for the 18th time, outscoring UF 1448.25-1314.00 in the final standings. Only 20 sports count for each school toward their final total, but the Cardinal have 35 to choose from while the Gators currently support 21 total sports.

5 » With just a handful of game remaining in the 2012 College World Series, which Florida was eliminated from on Monday, the end of the athletic season is nearly here which means the final standings for the 2012 Capital One Cup will be official shortly. As of press time, the Gators lead the men’s standings with 89 points (baseball has not been counted yet). The only way that Florida can lose their top spot is if Arkansas (currently ranked 17th with 39 points) wins the entire CWS (adding 60 points to their total) and UF is ranked eighth or worse when the final poll. In that scenario, the Gators would finish second by one point (99-98).

6 » The USA Baseball Collegiate National Team announced Monday that Florida sophomore right-handed pitcher Jonathon Crawford has been selected to play for the squad this summer. Crawford is one of six Southeastern Conference players to earn placement on the team, which consists of freshmen and sophomores from some of the nation’s top programs. He finished the 2012 season with a final record of 6-2 along with a 3.13 ERA and the team’s first solo no-hitter for in 21 years.

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FOUR BITS: Rosario, Donovan, McQuay, 2011-12

1 » Florida Gators senior guard Mike Rosario, playing with the Puerto Rico National Team in the 2012 Centrobasket Championship, registered seven points and three rebounds in his team’s easy 92-60 win over Panama on Monday. Puerto Rico is set to take on the Bahamas at 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday as they continue in the event and hope to earn a bid to the 2012 London Olympics.

2 » In Brazil with the USA Basketball Men’s U18 National Team, Florida head basketball coach Billy Donovan improved to 3-0 in international competition as the Americans defeated host Brazil 83-64 on Monday in the 2012 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. The United States has already qualified for the 2013 FIBA U18 World Championship set for next summer but still has plenty to accomplish in this tournament. The U.S. will take on Argentina on Tuesday in a semifinal game for the opportunity to play for the tournament title against either Canada or Brazil.

3 » Gators junior runner Tony McQuay was named a semifinalist for The Bowerman the biggest award in collegiate track & field on Tuesday, becoming the fifth student-athlete from Florida to receive the distinction in the last three years. Though UF has yet to bring home the prestigious award, McQuay has as legitimate of a shot as anyone before having won the national title in both the indoor and outdoor 400-meter dash. He also anchored the Gators’ 4×400-meter team that captured the outdoor national championship and was one of the two top performers for the Florida men’s track & field team that swept the indoor and outdoor 2012 NCAA Championship.

4 » The 2011-12 athletic season has come to an end for the Gators and though some highly ranked Florida teams missed out on opportunities at national titles (baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse, softball), UF also brought home a school record three NCAA Championships thanks to sterling efforts by men’s track & field (indoor and outdoor) and women’s tennis. The NCAA Indoor title for men’s track and field marked the third-straight for the program, and women’s tennis completed their quest to win back-to-back titles with their victory this season. The Gators also won eight individual national titles including six in track & field and one in gymnastics.

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TWO BITS: baseball signees, Faehn extended

1 » Florida Gators baseball saw six of its 2012 signees drafted in the first two days of the 2012 MLB Draft and there is a legitimate shot that all sign their contracts and never wind up stepping foot on campus. Below is a list of all six players selected and any current information available on their decision-making process.

OF Lewis Brinson (Tamarac, FL) – No. 29 (first round) to Texas
Brinson has told the official MLB blog that he is already close to signing.
RHP Lance McCullers (Tampa, FL) – No. 41 (comp. round A) to Houston
A top-15 talent, McCullers fell due to concerns over signability. The new collective bargaining agreement gives teams limited funds in which to pay draftees, but the Astros will be able to save money in other areas and offer McCullers a significantly higher contract than his draft slot would typically provide him. Houston’s official website, which spoke to McCullers on Tuesday, said he is prepared to “go through the negotiating process with an open mind and accept any offer he and his family find to be fair.” His father, a former MLB player, said he has “a good feeling that it’s going to go pretty smoothly.” Despite high hopes from Florida fans that McCullers falling in the draft meant he might wind up playing for the Gators, it does not appear that will be the case.
OF Jesse Winker (Windermere, FL) – No. 49 (comp. round A) to Cincinnati
Expected to sign with the Reds.
OF Max White (Williston, FL) – No. 73 (second round) to Colorado
Has told local area reporters that he plans to sign with the Rockies.
RHP Jonathan Sandfort (Winter Springs, FL) – No. 103 (third round) to Pittsburgh
SS Avery Romero (St. Augustine, FL) – No. 104 (third round) to Miami

2 » Florida women’s gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn received a contract extension that will keep her in orange and blue through the 2017 season, the school announced on Monday. Faehn, who has yet to win a national title with the Gators but came excruciatingly close in 2012 (falling 0.075 points short), will have at least five more years to accomplish that goal. “It’s extremely exciting,” she said in a statement. “I absolutely love the University of Florida. The institution, the athletics, the academics … It’s just a tremendous, all-around everything place for our family.” The gymnastics program has been a juggernaut under her stewardship with Florida capturing three Southeastern Conference titles and finishing in the top five in the NCAA Championship seven times. UF also announced that the gymnastics studio, which has been undergoing renovations and will not be completed for six more months, will run the school a cool $4.5 million.

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Florida sweeps SEC All-Sports Awards yet again

Any doubt that the University of Florida had the dominant athletics program in the Southeastern Conference during the 2011-12 school year was put to rest Sunday as the university was named the SEC All-Sports champion by the Halifax Media Group for the fourth-straight season. Sweeping all three titles – overall, men’s and women’s – the Florida Gators won by staggering numbers in each category, literally dominating the competition.

Team (OVERALL)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida156.5169.78
No. 2 Georgia141.0168.81
No. 3 LSU129.0158.06

Team (MEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida 66.579.50
No. 2 Georgia59.078.43
No. 3 LSU55.077.86

Team (WOMEN's)Total PointsSportsAverage
No. 1 Florida90.0910.00
No. 2 Georgia82.099.11
No. 3 Tennessee70.088.75

Florida is the only school to sweep all three titles in a single season, accomplishing the feat for the 12th time, fifth in the last six years and fourth-in-a-row (2006-07, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). UF has now won 22 overall titles (including six-straight), 19 women’s titles and 16 men’s titles.

All 16 of the Gators’ sports (nine women’s, seven men’s) were counted with cross country, indoor and outdoor track & field combined into one unit per gender. Lacrosse was not included as that program competes in the American Lacrosse Conference.

Florida won three SEC titles over this period – gymnastics, women’s tennis and women’s indoor track and field – compared to eight in 2010-11. UF women’s tennis captured both the regular season and tournament championships.

The Gators lead the SEC with 205 all-time team titles.

The SEC All-Sports titles were previously awarded by The New York Times Regional Newspaper Group from 1994-95 to 2010-11.

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FOUR BITS: Hunter, lacrosse, tennis selections

1 » Florida Gators freshman gymnast Kytra Hunter, who won a pair of 2012 NCAA Championships in the all-around and vault last month, was named the recipient of the Honda Sports Award on Wednesday. The honor, which basically makes Hunter the “gymnast of the year” by recognizing her as the best student-athlete in her sport, is awarded to one female in 12 different NCAA-sanctioned sports. It is the second straight year that a Gators student-athlete has won one of the awards with outfielder Kelsey Bruder bringing home the honor for softball in 2011. In the 36-year history of the Honda Sports Award, Florida has won it 15 times in six different sports (UF student-athletes were honored in two sports in 1982).

2 » One of six Florida lacrosse players to be honored by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday, freshman midfielder Nora Barry was named the 2012 ALC Rookie of the Year after registering 32 goals (on 54 shots) in 17 games during the regular season. Barry’s goal total was the fifth-highest on the Gators, but she led the team in ground balls and also finished second in draw controls. Three Florida juniors – attacker Kitty Cullen, M Brittany Dashiell and defender Sam Farrell – were named to the All-ALC First Team, while Barry, junior goalkeeper Mikey Meagher and junior A Gabi Wiegand received second-team nods.

3 » Four members of No. 2 Gators women’s tennis found themselves placed in the brackets for the 2012 NCAA Individual Championships when the selections were announced on Wednesday. Junior Allie Will not only earned the No. 1 seed in the singles tournament but is also one half of the No. 1 doubles team along with sophomore Sofie Oyen. Junior Lauren Embree was placed in the grouping of singles seeds 9-16, Oyen was chosen as an alternate and the pairing of Embree/senior Joanna Mather also made it as an at-large doubles team. Florida has not won a NCAA singles title since 1996 (Jill Craybas) or a doubles title since 2001 (Whitney Laiho/Jessica Lehnhoff).

4 » No. 11 UF men’s tennis also had four players selected for the NCAA Individual Championships as senior Nassim Slilam and juniors Tripper Carleton and Bob van Overbeek all received at-large bids for the singles bracket. (Sophomore Spencer Newman is listed as an alternate.) Additionally, the duo of Slilam/junior Billy Federhofer will compete in the doubles draw. The Gators have not won a NCAA singles title since 1999 (Jeff Morrison) or a doubles title since 1993 (Mark Merklein/David Blair).

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