Florida Gators gymnastics wins share of second-straight NCAA National Championship

By Jordan McPherson – Only Gators.com Contributor

After trailing for most of the Super Six for the second-straight year, it came down to sophomore Bridgette Caquatto pulling off a miracle for No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics, which forced a late tie and split the 2014 NCAA Championship on Saturday night in Birmingham, AL.

UF’s final competitor in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center, Caquatto needed to score a 9.95 on floor if the Gators wanted to earn a share of the national title with the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners.

Caquatto delivered, matching her career-high mark for the third time this season as Florida locked up with Oklahoma for the lead just one year after winning the title for the first time in program history.

“It was absolutely incredible,” Gators head coach Rhonda Faehn said in a postgame interview. “Our athletes, I mean, they knew what was on the line, and they just competed their hearts out.”

Florida and Oklahoma both posted a 198.175 — the highest score in Super Six history — and subsequently split title. By tying with the Gators, the Sooners became just the sixth program to finish in the top spot. LSU (197.600) finished in third and Alabama (fourth, 197.550), Georgia (fifth, 197.050) and Nebraska (sixth, 196.500) rounded out the field.

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Florida Gators gymnastics reaches Super Six, looks for second straight title

By Jordan McPherson — OnlyGators.com Contributor

Behind a strong all-around performance courtesy of senior Alaina Johnson (T-2nd, 39.600) — who finished with top-five scores on vault (T-5th, 9.900), uneven bars (T-2nd, 9.925) and balance beam (T-2nd, 9.900) —No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the Super Six of the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive season and eighth time in the last nine years.

Florida posted a 197.650 in the Birmingham Jefferson Civic Center to tie No. 4 Alabama for the top spot in Session II of the semifinals on Friday in Birmingham, AL.

No. 9 Nebraska finished third with a 197.100 to join Florida and Alabama in advancing to the Super Six over Utah (197.025), UCLA (197.000) and Penn State (194.825).

With the win, the Gators will look to defend their national title in Saturday’s Super Six with the field also comprised of Oklahoma, LSU and Georgia. Nebraska is the lone team in the field that did not compete in the 2013 NCAA Championships, when Florida became just the fifth team ever to win an NCAA national title in the sport.

UF competed in the Olympic rotation during its time in the semifinals. After posting its best mark of the season on vault (49.550) at the University Park Regional on April 5, Florida scored a 49.375 team score on the horse — the best team total in both semifinals — to begin competition in Birmingham.

The Gators then extended their lead by notching a 49.550 on bars, the program’s highest total at the NCAA Championships and the fourth-best score in NCAA Semifinals history. Sophomore Bridget Sloan (9.950) posted the highest score on the event, while Johnson (9.925), senior Mackenzie Caquatto (9.925) and sophomore Bridgette Caquatto (9.900) all had big outings to help UF expand its lead.

After taking a .200 advantage over second-place UA halfway through the competition, Florida struggled on beam, earning a 49.300. Sloan fell for the second consecutive meet after checking her balance twice, resulting in a career-low score on 9.200 on Friday for the All-American. The miscue also took her out of contention for the All-Around award.

Despite Sloan’s stumble, Mackenzie Caquatto and Johnson kept the Gators afloat by posting 9.900s on beam while Claire Boyce and junior Kytra Hunter scored 9.850s.

With just one event remaining, Florida rebounded on the floor routine, scoring a 49.425.

After posting sub-9.900 scores all evening, Hunter — who scored four perfect 10s on the floor this season — tied with Boyce and Sloan for a team-best 9.900 to cap the event for UF. Hunter finished with a 39.475 all-around, tying for the eighth-best total in Session II.

NCAA Super Six competition begins Saturday at 7 p.m. and will air live ESPN3.com.

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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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SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

1 » Former Florida Gators currently playing in the NBA collectively had an interesting last three days. Centers Al Horford of the Atlanta Hawks and Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls each started March off on fire after concluding February with a career game. Horford averaged 22 points, six rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals in two weekend games, while Noah posted two more double-doubles and averages of 17.5 points, 10 boards, five assists and 2.5 blocks in his two games. Washington Wizards rookie guard Bradley Beal posted a career-high 29 points in a double-double performance (11 rebounds) on Friday but then went down hard on Sunday with a sprained left ankle that was so painful it reportedly caused him to blackout on the court. X-rays came back negative but Beal remains day-to-day for the Wizards. Houston Rockets forward Chandler Parsons capped off the weekend with an explosive performance Sunday, scoring a career-high 32 points on 12-of-13 shooting (6-of-7 from downtown) in just 30 minutes. He became the first player since Larry Bird to score 30+ points, shoot 92 percent or better and attempt at least five three-pointers. Parsons, a second-round pick and second-year player, continues to be an incredibly valuable player for the Rockets; he has scored 20+ points in four-straight games.

2 » Entering the weekend unranked and losers of five-straight games to Georgia Southern, Florida Gulf Coast (three) and North Florida, Florida baseball first dropped its sixth-straight contest before rallying to win the final two games of its weekend series against the Miami Hurricanes. The Gators (5-7) handed the Canes (10-2) their first two losses on the season, toppling their foes with a four-run eighth inning on Saturday and a four-run third inning on Sunday. Sophomore catcher Taylor Gushue (3/8, 4 RBI, R, 2 BB) led Florida offensively and helped both freshman right-handed reliever Jay Carmichael (1-1) and sophomore RHP Johnny Magliozzi (1-0) pick up their first victories of the season. UF plays five games in the next seven days including a home-and-home against Jacksonville and a three-game series at home against Indiana.

Read five more BITS of Gators news…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: NBA, baseball, Tebow, women, Gillespie

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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…
Continue Reading » Florida Gators gymnastics gets revenge, lacrosse earns a big win, softball starts 2013 season 5-0

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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!
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.

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SIX BITS: Tebow, Dillman, gym, Jenkins, Powell

1 » Appearing Monday on WKOV 690 AM in Jacksonville, FL, new Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan responded to a caller who was wondering if he would consider trading for Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow should he be made available. “You know something? I think I can tell you this. I had a long chat with Wayne [Weaver] that year. Obviously the Rams drafted Sam Bradford, and I was talking to Wayne then on what they ought to do,” Khan said. “I should have an offline conversation with you, OK? I’m going to absolutely talk your ear off. Some of the stuff might not be politically correct, but I share your sentiment. I think, when is the next time Jacksonville is going to have an athlete like Tim Tebow? Coming from being raised in Illinois, I couldn’t see Red Grange playing for anybody other than the Bears or Dick Butkus playing for anybody other than the Bears. I don’t want to get into 20/20 hindsight, and God help us, the draft record has not been the best with the Jaguars.”

Khan was then asked by the host if he would have drafted Tebow had he been owner of the Jaguars at the time. “100 percent I would have. Absolutely,” he said. “The first Jaguars game I came to was in ’10, we played Denver here. There were a lot more Tebow jerseys in the Jaguars stands than the teal jerseys for any player, let’s face it. You hate to get into 20/20 hindsight and finger pointing, but certainly [I would have] if I had anything to do with it. We probably won’t have a chance like that again.”

2 » Even though his team is not participating in Super Bowl XLVI, Tebow will be in Indianapolis, IN for festivities over the course of the week. He will also be a guest on NBC‘s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon Wednesday along with actor/comedian Tracy Morgan and musical group All American Rejects. Tebow’s name has been a hot topic on Fallon’s show recently as the host as done a parody character of him and David Bowie and also used him in a number of jokes over the last few weeks.

3 » The Florida Gators have put together an introductory video featuring the team’s new strength and conditioning staff including most notably director Jeff Dillman and assistant Jesse Ackerman. The duo discuss their mental and physical approach to strength and conditioning over a video featuring a number of Florida players lifting weights and working out. You can check it out by clicking here.

4 » No. 8 Gators gymnastics (6-0, 2-0 SEC) put together an unbelievable performance on Friday, registering the fifth-highest total in team history and the top score in the nation this season, 197.775, to defeat the No. 1 Arkansas Razorbacks (8-1, 2-1 SEC) and No. 24 Maryland Terrapins (4-4) and Bridgeport in a quad-meet at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. Four Florida gymnasts won events with sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto winning the uneven bars (9.95), junior Marissa King taking the balance beam (9.95), junior Ashanée Dickerson capturing the all-around (39.60) and both Dickerson and freshman Kytra Hunter tying to win the floor exercise (9.95). According to UF, Friday was the first time the Gators had defeated a top-ranked team at home since 1989.

5 » North Alabama and former Florida cornerback Janoris Jenkins put together a solid performance in the 2012 Senior Bowl on Saturday and is in the process of working his way into the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. As part of this journey, he quit smoking marijuana, which he was arrested for three times and ultimately got him dismissed from UF. “I learned as a young man, you can’t smoke weed; it don’t get you where you want to go,” Jenkins told The Florida Times-Union. “As a kid I had to learn for myself. I learned for myself when I found out the hard way. I just thank God for letting that happen to me early and not late. [...] I tell everybody now if you’re going to come around me and smoke weed, I can’t hang around you,” he said. “We’re friends, but while you’re smoking marijuana, I can’t hang around you.”

6 » With National Signing Day less than 48 hours away, the Gators are hoping to haul in a number of top prospects that still have them high on their list. As it turns out, Florida may actually end up losing a commitment due to his grades and a potential learning disability. Four-star linebacker Jeremi Powell (Largo, FL), who committed to the Gators almost a year ago, recently visited the Marshall Thundering Herd and enjoyed his trip. According to HerdNation.com, it has become a legitimate landing spot for him because of the school’s H.E.L.P. Program which provides “educational support, remediation and mentoring to individuals” with specific learning disabilities or disorders like ADD/ADHD. Powell must pass one more high school class and improve his ACT score in order to get into UF, obstacles that could have him instead decide to commit to Marshall.

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