Florida opens SEC play with win
A Gator claimed each of the event titles
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - The No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team (2-0, 1-0 SEC) opened league action Friday evening with a 196.775-192.90 win against No. 16 Kentucky (2-1, 0-1 SEC) in front of Stephen C.
O’Connell Center crowd of 4,552.
A Gator claimed each of the event titles Friday. Reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman Gymnast of the Week Alaina Johnson opened the meet with a pair of wins, taking her first collegiate vault title with a 9.95 and matching her mark of 9.925 from a week ago to collect her second consecutive uneven bars win.
Her score distinguishes her as one of four Gator freshmen all-time to earn a vault mark of 9.95, joining teammate Ashanée Dickerson (2010) and past All-Americans Savannah Evans (2004) and Chrissy Van Fleet (1997).
Focusing on what her vault coach tells her helped Johnson to the high mark Friday.
“Adrian (Burde, UF Assistant Coach) tells me little corrections each time, so after I do that vault whatever correction he tells me I just work on that and fix one thing at a time,” Johnson said. “That’s what I did last week and it worked.”
The beam title was shared by Gator sophomores Liz Green and Marissa King, as each turned in marks of 9.825. It was the first win of the season for both, while Green now owns five beam titles and King picks up her second.
A pair of Gators represented Florida in the 2010 NCAA floor exercise final and that duo collected the win on that event Friday, as King and Dickerson shared the title with identical marks of 9.875. For Dickerson, it was her second consecutive and ninth overall floor win, while the finish was King’s second floor title as a Gator.
King wasn’t happy with her performance in the season opener, so Friday’s results will serve as a motivator, she said.
“I’m a lot more pleased than last week. I think I had a rough start to the season; there are still improvements to be added on here or there. It’s just nice to go out there and obviously do better than last week. It’s definitely motivated me more now because I know I can get those scores, I know I can do those routines. I can do them under the pressure, it’s just hitting them when it’s needed,” King said.
“It’s definitely motivated me and cheered me up. I can’t wait to see what happens the rest of the season - hopefully it’s going up and onwards.”
Dickerson also claimed the all-around win for the second week in a row, posting a 39.225. It is the ninth win for Dickerson, moving her into a tie for ninth with All-American Orley Szmuch on the Gators’ career all-around wins chart.
Caquatto shared second on bars as she and Dickerson each turned in collegiate-best marks of 9.90. Caquatto made her first appearance on beam Friday, sharing third at 9.725 with Florida’s Randy Stageberg.
Tonight’s meet saw four Gators making their season or career debuts in event lineups as the Florida coaching staff looks to see how the gymnasts perform in a competitive situation. UF head coach Rhonda Faehn liked what she saw Friday.
“We’re extremely pleased once again with how the team did, especially with so many different lineups that we added and new routines. Some different athletes got an opportunity to get out there tonight,” Faehn said. “I think the vault and bar performances were stellar. So many stuck landings and they really performed well.”
The everything’s-under-control attitude exuded by this edition of the Gator gymnastics team plays a huge part in Florida’s strong start this season, Faehn said.
“We saw that even last week that they’re really calm and it’s nice. The warm-ups are smooth and that carries over into the competition. It’s nice that they’re calm but also competing aggressively instead of being lackadaisical by that attitude,” Faehn said. “Some of our freshmen have experience as top elite athletes and with that comes a lot of experience under high pressure situations. It brings a calming effect to some of the other athletes as well.”