Jan. 29, 2010

The No. 4 University of Florida gymnastics team (3-1, 3-0 SEC) used its season-best total Friday to take a 196.725-195.05 win over No. 13 LSU (3-3, 1-2 SEC).


Friday's competition was the Fourth Annual Gators Link to Pink, a meet that is part of a Southeastern Conference initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer. The enthusiastic pink-clad O'Connell Center crowd of 9,198 ranked as the third-largest in school history. UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn commended the Florida fans for coming out Friday to support the Gators and this cause.



"It was awesome to see people already in the third level before we started our first event. That was something some of the LSU athletes commented on. They said 'how do you get such a good crowd here?' I said "It's Gainesville, they love the Gators," Faehn said. "It was wonderful. It couldn't have been better for such an amazing cause as Link to Pink. I think it was inspirational and I think the whole evening was really special."



Eleven collegiate-best marks were set or matched by Florida gymnasts Friday. Junior All-American Alicia Goodwin joined her teammates applauding the crowd for the energy it brought to the O'Connell Center.



"I was really excited; we had so much energy tonight. Our whole team was having so much fun. With everyone being behind you, it just helps you to do better," Goodwin said. "You look up and you see people in the third tier and you're like 'oh wow.'"



Goodwin provided her own 'oh wow' moment early in UF's uneven bars lineup as she stuck her double front dismount. Her score of 9.925 matched her collegiate-best to claim the evening's event title. It was Goodwin's second consecutive bar win of the season. Senior All-American Amanda Castillo turned in a season-best 9.875 to share second on bars with LSU's Susan Jackson.



All five of the Gator scores used toward its season-high floor total of 49.40 were collegiate-bests. The final two Gator floor performers, senior All-American Maranda Smith and freshman Ashanée Dickerson, each turned in marks of 9.925 to share first. It was Dickerson's second floor win and Smith's first floor win of the season. Sophomore Amy Ferguson upped her collegiate-best to 9.90 to take third.



Florida freshman Liz Green shared Friday's balance beam win with LSU's Jackson at 9.825. Green also used that same score to share last week's balance beam win at Kentucky. She's been part of the Gators' beam lineup for the last three meets and has finished first or second in each performance. Three tied for third at 9.775 - UF's Dickerson and Marissa King plus LSU's Samantha Engle.


The vault competition featured three of the nation's top 15 vaulters and that trio stepped up on the award's stand Friday. Jackson, the 2008 NCAA vault champion, took the win by matching her season-best mark of 9.95. UF's Dickerson matched her collegiate-best of 9.925 to take second. Sophomore Nicole Ellis raised her collegiate-best for the second week in a row as she turned in a 9.90 to take third.



LSU's Jackson and UF's Dickerson entered Friday's meet ranked No. 1 and No. T4, respectively, in the national all-around rankings. Jackson took the win - her fourth consecutive - with a total of 39.525. Dickerson was second at 39.45. King turned in her collegiate-best of 39.20 to take third.



Faehn liked the step forward she saw from the Gators Friday.



"We're really excited about the progress they made so far. We know that we can do so much better, but where they have progressed is what we were looking for. We were looking for a change from last week; we wanted the performance to be greater. The landings on floor were a huge difference tonight. They really performed it to the crowd, almost inviting the crowd in when they were performing. The bars improved, and especially the beam. We had a miss on beam, but we liked how Ashanée and Liz went up after the fall and perform aggressive routines. It was really great to see. They did not hold back and it shows so much promise for the season."


Next week, Florida travels to Raleigh, N.C., to participate in a triangular meet with North Carolina State and George Washington. Meet time is set for 7 p.m. in the Reynolds Coliseum on Feb. 5.