Florida may not lead the country in the polls, but the Gators lead the nation perfect 10s. Florida has been absolutely spot-on eight times this season.
In a season that has seen exactly 26 perfect 10s across the NCAA, the reigning national champions have two athletes to thank: Kytra Hunter (6) and Bridget Sloan (2).
“It made me so happy to score a perfect 10,” Hunter says. “It made practice more motivating, way more fun and loose. And it gave me more confidence knowing my teammates could count on me.”In 2014, both Hunter and Sloan scored their first perfect 10s. Jan. 24 against Georgia, Sloan and Hunter scored back-to-back perfect 10s on the floor exercise, a feat had not been accomplished since 1996.
“Seeing a teammate score a perfect 10 in a competition is awesome,” Hunter says. “It is awesome to know you can count on them. I am so proud of Bridget and think she is incredible. It is awesome to have a teammate who can put up big scores, because it ultimately goes to the team score.”
The following week versus Oklahoma, Hunter received another perfect 10 on floor, becoming only the second Florida athlete to earn perfect marks in consecutive meets. The first was two-time NCAA vault champion Susan Hines in 1998.
Achieving perfection is different in gymnastics because of the sport’s subjective nature. Aside from certain basic criteria, a gymnast may not know how to be perfect on an apparatus because each judge has a different interpretation.
“The fact that gymnastics is subjective is hard,” contends Hunter, “because each judge has different opinions. We always watch competition film after a meet and breaking each performance down and that helps.”
However, Hunter knew when she nailed it.
“After each routine, I criticize myself and think there is something I could have done better on,” she says. “But after my perfect 10 on floor I knew I had nailed it and done my absolute best.”
After the meets against Georgia and Oklahoma, Hunter scored perfect 10s on vault against LSU and Arkansas. Hunter wrapped up the regular season with two perfect 10s on floor against West Virginia and Missouri.
Perfection is also a mindset. After Sloan scored a perfect 10 on floor versus Georgia she couldn’t believe what happened, but set her sights on another achievement.
“Beam is my event, it is the event I am the best at and my favorite, and I wanted a perfect 10 on beam,” says Sloan. “I told Coach Rhonda [Faehn] at Kentucky that I was going to score a perfect 10 on beam. She said, ‘show me.’ I wanted it so badly, and it happened. It is one of my favorite memories.”
Sloan earned her 10.0 -- against Kentucky on beam -- on Feb. 7.
Leading the nation in perfect 10s is not the only record these two Florida gymnasts have set this year. Hunter and Sloan are the only two Gators to earn a perfect mark on multiple events and the first gymnasts in the nation this season to post a perfect mark on more than one event.
Sloan is the first this season to post 10.0 marks on two different events and Hunter is the only one to earn multiple perfect marks on multiple events in 2014.
“We are beyond thrilled that our athletes have performed as well as they have this season," coach Rhonda Faehn says. "The mark our athletes are trying to achieve performance- and execution-wise is that perfect 10. We’ve been fortunate the Kytra [Hunter] and Bridget [Sloan] have achieved that this year on multiple occasions. The sole focus of our athletes is on making their performance the absolute best that they can to help the team."
This all bodes well for Florida in its quest to defend its 2013 national title this weekend in Birmingham, Ala.
“We are definitely on the right track,” says Sloan. “We do not have the mindset of the reigning champions. We still will walk into NCAAs and throw big routines. We are not acting like we have targets on our backs, our moods are light. We look great and are super healthy.”
As for any more perfect 10s, “Of course I am hoping for another perfect 10,” says Hunter. “I am trying each time, on each apparatus. I know that I cannot control the judges, but I am trying to make the same connections I make in practice in competition. I am staying relaxed and having fun.”