SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics did not conclude its incredible weekend on Saturday after it won the 2013 NCAA Championship, the first NCAA title in program history. Instead, Florida was right back at it on Sunday as its gymnasts competed in individual events with the hopes of bringing additional championships back to Gainesville, FL. Freshman Bridget Sloan, who captured the 2013 NCAA Championship in the all-around on Friday, doubled up with a title in the balance beam (9.900) on Sunday. She actually would have won three individual championships had it not been for junior teammate Alaina Johnson, who edged Sloan 9.9125 to 9.900 in the uneven parallel bars to win a title of her own.

2 » Florida’s national championship-winning gymnastics team will be honored at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center during a special celebration on Monday at 7 p.m. Gates open at 6 p.m. and access to the event is free. The celebration will be the first held inside the O’Dome for a Gators championship-winning program since basketball won its second of back-to-back titles in 2007. GatorVision.tv will have a live stream of the event for fans outside of Gainesville. OGGOA will tweet a link at 7 p.m.

The Florida school website on Monday posted a terrific feature on head coach Rhonda Faehn, who has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the program in 2002. Though the national title had been elusive for Faehn, she knew that the Gators could be one of the top programs in the country when she took the job. “It was a gold mine just waiting for success,” she told senior writer Scott Carter about Florida. “I felt there was so much potential. Who wouldn’t want to go there? It was undiscovered almost and people needed to see how amazing it was. That’s what I felt for years when I was coaching at other places, that Florida was just incredible.” Added athletic director Jeremy Foley about Fahen: “She built our program. When we hired her, the goal was we wanted to be like Alabama, we wanted to be like Georgia, we wanted to be like Utah, we didn’t understand why we couldn’t be like them. We wanted to be a factor. Look at what she has done. I feel great for her, her staff, and obviously these kids.”

Check out four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: gymnastics, Floyd, Kansas, Parsons

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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.

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

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4 BITS: gymnastics, tennis, Lochte, Muschamp

1 » No. 1 Florida Gators gymnastics advanced to the NCAA Super Six for the seventh time in the last eight seasons on Friday by winning its session with a score of 197.775, which also wound up being the top overall mark during the two-session semifinals of the 2013 NCAA Championship. Additionally, Bridget Sloan became the second Florida freshman to win the NCAA’s all-around individual national title in as many years after she posted a combined 39.600 on Friday with a 9.925 in the uneven bars, 9.900s in the floor exercise and balance beam, and a 9.875 in the vault. The Gators have never won an NCAA team title but came excruciatingly close one season ago, falling by 0.075 points in the Super Six. Alabama, which won the 2012 championship, returns to this season’s Super Six field along with Florida, Georgia, LSU, Oklahoma and UCLA. The Crimson Tide, Bulldogs and Bruins are three of just four teams in the history of the sport that have won NCAA gymnastics titles (Utah); the Gators are hoping to become the fifth on Saturday in Los Angeles, CA in a meet that begins at 7 p.m.

2 » (3) Florida women’s tennis and (3) Gators men’s tennis each won their 2013 Southeastern Conference Tournament quarterfinal matches on Friday. Each had byes in the first two rounds of the tournament. The women took down the (6) Vanderbilt Commodores 4-1, and the men swept the (6) South Carolina Gamecocks 4-0 as both teams advanced to the semifinals of their respective tournaments. Florida’s women’s team will go head-to-head with (2) Texas A&M on Saturday at approximately 3 p.m. The Gators men’s program will square off with (2) Tennessee at 11 a.m. The women’s team is hoping to win its fourth-straight SEC Tournament title, while the men are trying to capture their first since 2011.

3 » Former Florida swimmer Ryan Lochte, in an effort to promote his new reality program “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” (which premiers on Sunday at 10 p.m. on E!), appeared on FOX 29 in Philadelphia, PA for an interview on Friday and made, well, made the female host cry. Rather than shedding tears after Lochte told a touching story or because she was so overwhelmed by what some women perceive to be his attractiveness, Sheinelle Jones broke into tears from laughing at, well, Lochte’s stupidity. Check out the video below to see for yourself.

Lochte’s athletic accomplishments have instilled a sense of pride in Gators fans – especially during the 2012 London Olympics – but his interviews and upcoming reality show may bring forth a different emotion: embarrassment.

4 » A feature story by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com takes a look at Florida head coach Will Muschamp and how he has changed from a personality standpoint now that he is entering the third year at the helm of the Gators. “Something two years ago would have happened, [and] I would have probably blown my head off thinking about it,” he conceded. “Now I roll with the punches a little better than maybe I did before.” Interestingly enough, his parents disagreed on how Muschamp’s demeanor may appear in his third year with the team. His mother, Sally, thinks he may be calming down a bit – “I think he’s enjoying everything more now.” – while his father, Larry, doubts that will be the case – “I don’t think he’ll be settling down a whole lot.”

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SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

1 » Only one of the two Florida Gators golfers competing in the 2013 Masters moved on to weekend play. After hitting an even 72 in the opening round on Thursday, Brian Gay shot a +2 (74) on Friday and is currently tied for 37th, three strokes above the cut line. Senior T.J. Vogel, who earned a spot in the major as an amateur event winner, was not as fortunate. He shot a +5 (77) on Thursday but was able to bring his score down with a +3 (75) on Friday. Vogel missed the cut by four strokes, ending his special weekend earlier than he would hoped. “I just had a good time,” he said Thursday after his first round. “This experience, I can’t even explain even in words. I’m just having such a great time playing in front of so many people and it’s just a really cool feeling when you know you hita great shot and you got people cheering for you. And I’m not used to that yet. It’s just really cool.”

2 » Former Florida QB Jacoby Brissett sounds more than slightly perturbed that he lost the starting job to Jeff Driskel last season. In a feature penned by Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com, Brissett indicates that he did not receive a fair shot to start for the Gators before throwing a barb at Driskel for his performance in the last game of the season. “It wasn’t right,” he said of the competition. “In the saying that God don’t like ugly, it came up to us in the Sugar Bowl when we couldn’t throw to save our life.” He then took a second shot at Driskel, basically questioning his former teammate’s work ethic while explaining why it was Brissett who should have started at Florida. “Just my competitiveness, I don’t think it was matched with that other guy,” he said. “The willingness to put in that extra work to win.”

Read four more Florida Gators news BITS…after the break!
Continue Reading » SIX BITS: Masters, Brissett, Booth, Tebow, PIT

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Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

For as much as the Florida Gators were in the news off the field in 2012 (check out Sunday’s post), the Gator Nation was making plenty of headlines on it as well. From breathtaking moments, game-changing and game-winning plays to winning championships and setting world records, Florida accomplished some unique athletic feats in 2012. Below are OGGOA‘s Top 12 On the Field Moments of the Year.

12 » MISSED IT BY THAT MUCH
If there was a theme to Gators athletics in the spring it was Florida teams falling short of their goals. In addition to men’s indoor track & field, women’s outdoor track & field and men’s swimming & diving all just coming up just short of winning major titles, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, lacrosse and softball all gave valiant efforts but faced immense disappointment in the end. It all started with the Gators basketball team, which advanced to the Elite Eight for the second-straight year and once again choked away a late lead and failed to advance to the Final Four. Up 11 points with 8:14 left in the game, Florida was outscored 18-3 down the stretch by Louisville, which held on for the 72-68 victory. The Gators hit just 1-of-12 shots over the final 8:14 while also going 1-for-4 from the charity stripe down the stretch and 0-for-9 from downtown over the final 20 minutes. Gymnastics did just about everything it could during the 2012 NCAA Super Six in late April but came just short of earning the first national title in program history, falling 197.850-197.775 to Alabama and losing by 0.075 points. Next up was softball, which looked primed to return to the championship game of the 2012 Women’s College World Series for the third time in the last four years. Instead, Florida got upended 10-1 by eventual national champion Alabama in the finals of the 2012 SEC Tournament and was eliminated in the Gainesville Regional portion of the 2012 NCAA Tournament due in part to suspensions levied against three key players. It was the first time since 2006 that UF did not at least advance to the Super Regional. A controversial finish led to another tough loss for lacrosse (see No. 9), leaving one sport to provide the ultimate disappointment to Gators fans in 2012.

Perhaps most heartbreaking for Gators fans was seeing a baseball team that was the national title favorite from the very start of the season fall fast and finish the campaign without a single title. Cruising along in the SEC Tournament with a one-run lead and three outs to go in the championship game, Florida baseball collapsed against Vanderbilt, allowing its opponents to score five runs on five hits in the top of the ninth and hold on for the title. Junior closer Austin Maddox imploded after coming on to get the final three outs, giving up a lead-off double to right and eventually allowing Vandy to tie the game after a sacrifice bunt, hit batter and suicide squeeze. It only got worse from there. The Commodores accomplished a double steal, hit an infield single, loaded the bases (intentional walk, double steal, intentional walk) and then pulled off a triple steal to score their third run of the inning. A two-run single put the nail in the coffin as the Gators allowed more stolen bases in a single frame (seven) than had ever been given up in an entire SEC Tournament game in the history of the event. With horrible memories of the SEC Tournament behind them and the NCAA Tournament upcoming, Florida hoped to use the experience to improve as a team. The Gators did advance to the College World Series but were swept right out of it with consecutive losses. Florida fell 7-3 to South Carolina in its first game before allowing an unranked Kent State team to register a 5-4 upset victory in the second game. The Gators coughed up four unearned runs, committed two errors and failed to plate runs despite having numerous opportunities to hit with runners in scoring position. With so much talent on the roster and a track record of success – the team got to the championship series just one year earlier – Florida baseball legitimately blew a great national title chance.

[Read: The Silver Lining - "Failure" is not a dirty word]

11 » FLORIDA SWEEPS FSU IN FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL

For the first time in school history, the Gators swept the Seminoles in football, basketball and baseball (5-0) in a calendar year. Florida State having a historically successful baseball team has stood in the way of Florida’s ability to accomplish this feat in the past, but Gators baseball completed its first regular-season sweep of the Seminoles since 1958 by earning a 9-2 victory in Gainesville, FL, 4-1 victory in Jacksonville, FL and a 6-3 win on the road in Tallahassee, FL. Florida football bounced back from consecutive losses to FSU with a 37-26 beat down in Tallahassee, and UF basketball matched the football team’s intensity with a 72-47 rout on the road.

Continue Reading » Top 12 for 2012: On the Field Moments of the Year

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FOUR BITS: Harvin, Lochte, McQuay, NBA Draft

1 » Former Florida Gators wide receiver Percy Harvin spoke up Wednesday on Twitter to explain why he demanded a trade from the Minnesota Vikings. “Fans I said I have issues to be worked out money not at all being the problem,” he write. “I’ve [done] everything asked and more…me and [coach] have been speaking and are on the same page…theres nothing I can do.” If Harvin’s beef really is not about the money, it may be because he only played 58.4 percent of offensive snaps in 2011 and was rarely used in the team’s red zone package. A playmaker at heart, Harvin may feel he is not being provided with enough opportunities to help his team win and raise his stock in the final two years of his contract. It does sound as if Harvin’s “holdout” may only last one day, however, as head coach Leslie Frazier told KFAN radio that the player will be returning to practice on Thursday.

According to CBS Sports, Harvin has not been a model locker room player despite casting himself as the one being wronged here. Former WR Randy Moss served as Harvin’s mentor during his first few years in Minnesota and even suggested he get then-head coach Brad Childress fired. “Harvin, I’m told, for whatever reason, took that message to heart. Within a week after Moss was gone, Harvin and Childress got into an expletive-filled, heated exchange, started, I’m told, by Harvin,” writes Mike Freeman. “Several players had to pull the two men apart, fearing a physical encounter, and as they did, Harvin seconds later picked up a small weight and threw it at Childress.” That is now the second accusation of aggression against a coach on Harvin following his allegedly getting into an altercation with former Florida wide receivers coach Billy Gonzales.

2 » With the 2012 London Olympics just over a month away, ESPN has put together a huge feature on former Gators swimmer Ryan Lochte, who is one of the United States’ faces of the games and someone who will likely continue stacking gold medals at the event. Click here to read the extensive Ryan vs. Ryan feature after watching the two videos below of Lochte’s one-on-one interview from Gainesville, FL and him working out at Florida and being fine tuned by Gatorade.

3 » Gators junior sprinter Tony McQuay, who won three national titles this year and helped lead Florida men’s track & field to consecutive NCAA Championships in indoor and outdoor competition, has decided to forego his final year of eligibility and turn pro, according to The Independent Florida Alligator. “From freshman year to now, it has been a long journey,” McQuay said. “It’s been a great experience for me. To go out with a national title, to break school records and go down in history, especially since it’s my last year here, words can’t describe how I feel.” McQuay still plans to graduate and train in Gainesville but will sign with either Nike or Adidas rather than retain his amateur status. He is currently in Eugene, OR along with 16 other current and former Gators competing at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials hoping to earn a spot on Team USA.

4 » Despite the fact that 117 different schools have had players selected in NBA Drafts since 2002, only 10 have had 10 or more players selected in that time. As researched by CBS Sports’s Matt Norlander, Florida is alone in eighth place with 11 players selected in the draft since 2002 only behind teams like Kansas and UCLA (15); Texas, Duke and Kentucky (14); and Connecticut and North Carolina (12). Memphis and Arizona each finished tied for ninth with 10 players picked in that timeframe. Also impressive is that the Gators have had more than one-fifth of Southeastern Conference players selected in that time as the league came in fourth with 53 players picked and was preceded by the ACC (70), Pac-12 (63) and Big East (63).

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Florida Gators men’s track & field wins first NCAA Outdoor Championship in program history

It came down to the wire for Florida Gators men’s track and field at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, IA on Saturday but an outstanding finish in the event-ending 1,600-meter relay propelled the team to victory and the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championship. The national outdoor title is the first in program history for either the men’s or women’s team and gives the Gators a sweep of the men’s national titles in 2012 as UF also captured the 2012 NCAA Indoor Championship in March.

Down two points to LSU heading into the final event, Florida used a 2012 world-leading finish (3:00.02) by freshmen Dedrick Dukes and Hugh Graham, Jr., juniors Leonardo Seymore and junior Tony McQuay to win the individual national title in the 4×400-meter relay (also the first in program history) and clinch the championship.

UF (50 points) edged LSU (48) and Texas A&M (40) for the title and became the first team since Arkansas in 2003 to sweep the NCAA Indoor and Outdoor Championships in the same season.

The Gators also brought home two other individual national titles on Friday as McQuay and junior Omar Craddock won their respective events. McQuay posted a time of 44.58 seconds in the men’s 400 meters to win the event for the first time in school history, and Craddock took home the men’s triple jump title with a distance of 16.92m/55-6.25 (+2.9). Both men also won the indoor title in their respective events to sweep them for the year, and Craddock’s victory marked the third-straight outdoor triple jump title for UF as well as the team’s sixth-straight overall triple jump title (indoor and outdoor 2010-12).

Neither senior sprinter Jeff Demps nor senior decathlete Gray Horn competed in their respective events this week. Demps, the reigning three-time 60-meter dash champion for indoor competition, missed the 100-meter dash as he continues to prepare for the U.S. Olympic Trials and 2012 London Olympics. Horn, one of the most accomplished student-athletes on the team, was still serving a suspension.

“We lost our best sprinter, we lost our best decathlete and our 4×100 didn’t qualify,” head coach Mike Holloway said after the victory. “A lot of people would have given up hope, but our group of guys didn’t. I sat them down after Regionals and I said ‘We are still the best team in the country, as long as you believe it,’ and our guys believed it.”

Holloway won the fourth national title of his career as the Gators men’s team has also captured three-straight NCAA Indoor Championships.

It is the first time in school history that Florida has won three national titles in the same season with the women’s tennis team winning their second-straight championship in May. Saturday’s national championship is the 29th in school history and 20th since athletic director Jeremy Foley took over the program.

Photo Credit: PrettySporty

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Noah, Harvin, golf

1 » Though OGGOA covered former Florida Gators defender Heather Mitts’s decision to retire from soccer following the 2012 London Olympics, we glossed over the fact that both Mitts and former Florida striker Abby Wambach were both officially named to the 2012 U.S. Women’s National Team roster. Both last seen on an international stage during the 2011 Women’s World Cup, Mitts and Wambach have each been members of the 2004 and 2008 Olympic teams though Wambach was unable to appear in the latter event after fracturing her leg. With 135 goals in 179 international matches, Wambach is just 13 scores behind Mia Hamm for No. 1 on the United States’ all-time scoring list. At just 31 years old, it is likely that Wambach has additional World Cups and perhaps one more Olympics (2016) ahead of her.

2 » Again speaking about playing for the French Men’s National Team in the Olympics, Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah said he plans to “fight for a medal” and believes he will regain his health and then some in time for the games. “It would be incredible to take part in the Olympics,” he told FIBA.com. “It’s one of the best competitions for an athlete. Playing in London will be a dream come true. It will be extraordinary for all my teammates. Especially for some of them like Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus, who have been fighting for 10 years to take part in this competition. Our group is very talented. We have a lot of very good players and everyone is extremely motivated to help France do its best during the competition.”

3 » Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Percy Harvin, who underwent minor shoulder surgery on April 24 to clean out bone spurs that had accumulated over the course of the season, has yet to participate in organized team activities but should be allowed to practice with the team sooner than later. Harvin’s surgery was initially delayed, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, due to a family emergency that lasted more than week. He may have otherwise been back in time to be a full participant in workouts but will once again have to miss time before officially joining his teammates on the field.

4 » Competing in the 2012 NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, CA, No. 23 Gators men’s golf shot an opening round 288 to tie for second place at +4 (three shots back of leader Alabama) following one day of competition. Additionally, junior golfer Tyler McCumber’s personal first-round score of 68 (-3) puts him one stroke back of the leader (UCLA’s Anton Arboleda). Florida has not captured a national title since 2001, but you can win on partybingo.com.

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