No. 3 Gators knock off No. 10 Huskers
Dickerson wins all-around while Gator freshmen shine
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn said she got a good feeling during the team’s season-opening meet when reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Ashanée Dickerson stuck her balance beam routine and smiled, lighting up the team.
“I knew it was going to be amazing when she stuck that vault — she was going to carry that momentum throughout the whole competition,” Faehn said. It was when Dickerson nailed her double-back beam dismount that she proved her coach right.
In front of 5,025 fans at the Stephen O’Connell Center, preseason No. 3 Florida (1-0, 0-0 SEC) clipped Nebraska (0-1, 0-0 Big 12) 196.925-194.950. For a pair of teams who finished two spots apart at the 2010 NCAA Gymnastics Championships — the Gators finished fifth while Nebraska ended in seventh — the home team looked in mid-season form.
UF, featuring three of its four freshmen in event lineups, put newbie Alaina Johnson in the all-around role. Fellow freshman Brittney Noble was on vault and floor; 2010 World Championship silver medalist, Mackenzie Caquatto, got back in the competitive flow on uneven bars.
“Especially with so many of the new faces and the new routines that were performed, it was a wonderful starting point,” Faehn said.
Dickerson showed no signs of a sophomore slump in her first event of the new season. She claimed the all-around title with a 39.550, including scoring 9.925 to win vault, balance beam and floor exercise. The win gives her eight all-around titles in her young Gator career.
Johnson tallied a 39.425 in her first college meet, the second highest ever for a Gator all-around debut.
“All the girls had told me how exciting and fun (the meets) are, so I just thought about it and visualized it,” Johnson said. Among the advice she got from her teammates was to enjoy the moment, do what she normally does and “change nothing” about her routine.
In a vault lineup that featured two freshmen, the Gators posted a 49.25. Johnson was runner-up at 9.85 and UF also used a 9.825 shared between three UF gymnasts.
Nebraska, which just missed out on the Super Six at the 2010 championships in Gainesville, started out on uneven bars with solid scores of 9.825 and 9.85, but then hiccupped at the end of the rotation with four consecutive scores of 9.75 or lower.
The Gators’ bars lineup also rounded out with two freshmen, including Johnson — who scored an event-high 9.925. It was the highest career-opening uneven bars mark for UF since Melanie Sinclair, who three times turned in a school record 10.0 on bars, posted a 9.975 to start her freshman season in 2007. The rotation was bolstered by Caquatto’s 9.85, which shared second with NU’s Brittnee Habbib and UF senior Alicia Goodwin’s 9.825.
The Cornhuskers posted a team score of 48.775 on vault and the Gators owned a 98.40 - 97.65 lead at the meet’s midway point.
Dickerson’s resounding 9.925 beam routine pretty much sealed the deal for the team win with floor exercise to go as UF pushed their lead to more than a point as they headed into their final event. Sophomore Randy Stageberg was runner-up on beam at 9.85 and classmate Liz Green shared third at 9.80 with junior Elizabeth Mahlich and NU’s Maddie Steinhauer.
Florida kept its foot to the pedal and finished the night with a 49.40 floor total, the best score for any event in the competition and the highest floor total ever for UF in a season opener. Maranda Smith, who appeared in two events, was again emblematic of consistency with a 9.90 floor routine.
The senior, who was granted a sixth year by the NCAA in the summer of 2010, thought she was done after the 2010 NCAA Championships. While warming up on vault — where she scored a 9.825 — Smith felt the competitive jitters flutter back.
“I had said to Robert (Ladanyi), ‘I can’t believe I have this feeling again, I never thought I would feel this way again,’” she said. “Just being out there and seeing the crowd, being out there with my teammates and coaches and seeing my parents come in, it just made my decision that much better and more exciting.”
Smith and Johnson shared second in the floor standings at 9.90.