No. 8 Florida Gymnastics Use Nation’s Top Total to Take Quad Meet
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Big marks added up to a big team total, as the No. 8 Florida gymnastics team (4-0, 2-0 SEC) used the nation’s top score of 2012 to claim its first home win over a top-ranked team in 23 years Friday in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 6,198.
The Gators used the fifth-highest total in school history of 197.775 to defeat No. T-1 Arkansas (6-1, 2-1 SEC), which posted a total of 196.70. No. 24 Maryland (4-4) was third at 193.075 and Bridgeport (2-4) rounded out the evening’s results at 192.975.
Florida season-best scores of 9.95 won the evening’s uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise event titles. Junior All-American Ashanée Dickerson picked up her 50th event titles of her outstanding Gator career, as she won her first all-around of the season with a 2012 Gator high of 39.60 and shared the evening’s floor exercise crown with freshman Kytra Hunter at 9.95. The 50 event titles ranks seventh all-time among Gator competitors in the program’s 40-year history.
Dickerson used collegiate-best marks on floor (9.95) and uneven bars (9.925) plus a season-high 9.90 on beam toward the third-highest all-around total of her Gator career.
“She was on fire tonight. She really just knows where those landings are and that helps her out. She showed off her floor and had the energy of the crowd behind her. I can’t say enough about how excited I am about her because she works so hard,” UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn said. “For her to come out and compete the way she did, and win, it can give her confidence that her hard work pays off.”
The Gators’ uneven bars total of 49.625, which ties for the third-highest in school history, was boosted by five marks of 9.90 or better. Four Gators earned collegiate-best bar marks as the lineup was led off by senior Nicole Ellis’ 9.90. Dickerson and fellow junior All-American Marissa King boosted their bars best to 9.925. Sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson also had a season-high 9.925 on the event to also share second on the event. The bars title was won by sophomore Mackenzie Caquatto, who matched her collegiate-best of 9.95 to claim her first win of the season and seventh bar victory as a Gator.
Caquatto, one of only two on the 20-member 2011-12 U.S. Senior National Team competing as a collegiate this season, was sidelined for the first two meets of the year as she further recovered from spraining both ankles in September at the final camp to select the U.S. 2011 World Championships’ roster. She made her debut last weekend, performing in the bar lineup at Kentucky. This week she stuck the dismount solid, and Faehn credited her courage to go for the stick.
“I was super proud of (Mackenzie) coming in and winning bars after such adversity, with the double ankle sprain. Last week was her first week on bars and she was very tentative on the landing. I know she’s in so much pain, but she still went for that stick. For her to really fight and get it and do as well as she did was wonderful and huge for the team to see Macko is back.”
Each of the six scores turned in on beam registered as either season or collegiate-best for the Gators as they equaled the eighth-best balance beam total in school history of 49.475. Three Gators posted marks of 9.9 or better. Dickerson turned in a season-best 9.90 and Johnson upped her collegiate-high to 9.925 to share second overall. King once again anchored the Gator lineup with a collegiate-best mark. She set her collegiate-high of 9.925 with her winning performance on Jan. 13 and raised that mark to 9.95 Friday to take her third beam win of the season.
King, always a top competitor for the Gators as she owns six All-America honors, has been a strong and steady performer in the early goings of the 2012 campaign.
“It shows how much she has matured and the different confidence level she has this season. She trains exactly like she’s competing out there. She’s more focused and more aggressive in her training, and it’s coming out into her competition. I can see it even from the moment she steps out onto the floor,” Faehn said. “On every event, she is at a different level. It’s nice to be able to see that she has maturity in her gymnastics and has taken ownership of it. She’s a leader out there.”
The Gators, who trailed Arkansas after the opening rotation, had built a comfortable 0.675 lead over the top-ranked Razorbacks heading into the final rotation. Faehn wanted her team to keep their focus through the entire competition and the team executed that order, as each of the five scores used toward the season-high total of 49.50 were season- or collegiate-best marks.
Florida’s final two floor performers ended the evening sharing the event title with collegiate-bests of 9.95. Dickerson was Florida’s fifth competitor, matching her collegiate-best of 9.95 for the sixth time of her career. Hunter anchored Florida’s floor set, upping her best to 9.95. The floor win is the 16th for Dickerson and the third for Hunter.
The Gators opened the meet with a 49.175 on vault and were led by King’s season-best 9.875 on her first Tsukahara one and a half vault of the season. Vault was the only event not won by a Gator as Arkansas’ Katherine Grable took the title at 9.90.
Tonight’s meet airs on ESPNU (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 251 or 1251) Feb. 2 at 6:30 p.m.
Florida now goes from facing the nation’s top-ranked team to meeting the defending NCAA champion. The Gators meet No. 6 Alabama (4-0, 1-0 SEC) Friday, Feb. 3 at 8:30 p.m. ET in Tuscaloosa, Ala. That meet will air tape-delayed on Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (Gainesville/Ocala Cox Cable channel 259) on Tuesday, Feb. 7 at 7 p.m.
Alabama Gymnastics Beats Auburn, 196.325-196.250
AUBURN, Ala. – For the third time in her career, the Alabama-Auburn gymnastics meet in Auburn, Ala. came down to senior Ashley Priess, and for the third time in a row she came up big to earn the win, scoring a 9.925 on the balance beam to push the Crimson Tide to a 196.325-196.250 victory.
In addition to securing an Alabama win in Auburn for the third time in a row, Priess has clinched a Tide victory in each of the Tide’s first three meets this season.
“It’s been three meets now and it’s come down to the last routine and she had to hit her routine so we could win,” UA head coach Sarah Patterson said. “Coming back from both (ankle) surgeries and being in this position, I know she is so mentally tough. I know that when it counts, she’s going to be right there on fire.”
The Tide’s win, which came in front of a raucous Auburn Arena record crowd of 7,299, pushed its streak to 104 in a row.
“This was one of the best environments outside of Coleman Coliseum to compete,” Patterson said. “This new arena, the energy of this crowd, it was awesome.”
Alabama was without senior All-American Geralen Stack-Eaton who was sidelined after an awkward landing in warm ups.
“We had some adversity at the beginning of the meet,” Patterson said. “I told the team, ‘Ladies, this is an opportunity for someone to step in, someone to do the job.’”
With the meet on the line going into the final rotation, the tension, high throughout, reached new levels when junior Ashley Sledge, who posted Alabama’s top score on the vault and floor exercise, fell from the beam in the third position. To keep Alabama in the meet, each of its next three gymnasts had to hit their routines.
“When Ashley Sledge fell on balance beam, I knew the next three were going to hit, because Ashley’s been a rock for us in the first couple of meets,” Patterson said. “I just knew they weren’t going to let her down.”
Junior Marissa Gutierrez scored a 9.825 followed by sophomore Sarah DeMeo’s 9.85. Then it was up to Priess, whose meet-best score propelled Alabama to a season-high 49.200.
The Tide scored a 48.975 on the uneven bars to open the meet, anchored by Priess’ season and meet-best 9.925. Sledge led the Tide to a 49.325 on the vault after turning in a meet-best 9.925. Alabama turned in a 48.825 on the floor exercise led by Sledge’s 9.85.
After two weeks on the road, the Tide returns home Friday, Feb. 3 against Florida. The meet gets underway at 7:30 p.m. CST and will be broadcast on a tape-delayed basis, on CSS. Tickets are available through the Alabama Ticket Office (205.348.2262) and online at RollTide.com.