ATHENS, Ga. – A steady performance led the No. 1 Florida gymnastics team (6-1, 5-1 SEC) to a 197.30-196.175 win over No. 9 Georgia (5-5-1, 3-1-1 SEC) Saturday afternoon in front of a sold-out Stegeman Coliseum crowd of 9,971.
Since 1992, Florida is the only team to bring the nation’s No. 1 ranking into Stegeman Coliseum and take the win. No. 1 Florida took a 197.725-196.60 win in 2011 and tied Georgia at 197.25 in 2007. The 2013 Gators are the sixth team to come to Georgia’s home arena ranked No. 1.
For the third time this season, the Gators were wearing pink. Florida has turned in totals of 197 or better in each 2013 “pink” meet performance. On Jan. 25, Florida posted what now is the nation’s second-highest (behind UF’s 198.10 on Feb. 8) total of the season of 197.65 to win the Gators Link to Pink meet. The following week, Florida participated in Arkansas’ Pink Meet and turned in a 197.575.
These pink meets are part of a Southeastern Conference initiative to raise awareness for the fight against breast cancer and all league gymnastics teams will have a pink meet this season.
This afternoon’s meet will air tape-delayed on SUN Sports (Gainesville/Ocala Cox cable 48 or 1048) Feb. 24 at 9 a.m.
The Gators trailed the GymDogs by 0.150 at the midway point of the meet. A solid, but not spectacular, Gator performance in the floor exercise coupled with GymDogs troubles on the balance beam put Florida ahead for good. Senior Ashanée Dickerson led UF on floor exercise with her mark of 9.875, which tied for second overall. Florida posted a 49.15 on floor while the GymDogs were forced to count two falls toward its balance beam total of 48.125.
Florida needed clean performances on its closing event, balance beam, to claim its first consecutive dual meet wins at Georgia since UF took wins in the 1974 and 1975 seasons. Consistent scores ranging from 9.825 to 9.875 gave UF its third-highest beam total of the season of 49.30 to seal the win. Mackenzie Caquatto, Bridget Sloan and Kytra Hunter all posted 9.875 to tie for third overall in the beam standings.
The opening rotation saw the GymDogs turn in their season best of 49.55 on vault. Steps on landings and slight control problems on handstands dinged the Gators uneven bars score, as the team posted a 49.375 to trail the GymDogs by 0.175 after the opening rotation. Sloan tied for the day’s uneven bars title after equaling her collegiate-best of 9.95 for the second consecutive meet. Mackenzie Caquatto shared third at 9.925.
At the midway point of the meet, Georgia held a 0.150 lead after posting a season-best 49.45 on the uneven bars. Three Gators turned in marks of 9.90 or better in this afternoon’s vault competition. Hunter was runner-up with her mark of 9.95, while Sloan tied for third at 9.925. Senior Marissa King also had a 9.90.
A heated rivalry and a sold-out road arena was part of a test that Florida’s Rhonda Faehn was glad the Gators had the chance to experience.
“This was the absolute best environment to test our team and to see how they would perform with a sold-out arena. They fought for every little thing. On bars, we missed some landing here and there. Same on vault. I think we only had one stuck vault.
“What I loved is that they did not buckle after the opening two events where we felt we did not perform as we are capable of. They came out and fought ever harder on floor. Again, we had to earn every score. On beam, I was most proud of them to finish as strong as they did. It speaks volumes for this team’s heart. They are grasping all the intangibles now – the heart, the fight, the passion. The fight was most important tonight. I was proud of them.”
Sloan claimed her third consecutive all-around title Saturday with her winning total of 39.60. It is the second consecutive year a Florida freshman has taken three consecutive all-around wins, as Hunter took the opening three titles of the 2012 season.
Hunter was second in today’s all-around at 39.45 and Dickerson took third at 39.40.
Faehn had an indication during warm-ups that this would be a good day for Sloan.
“What else can you say? I knew in the warm ups that she was going to have a great meet because she was just so animated, so light and so relaxed – nothing bothered her. I knew she was going to carry that over into the competition,” Faehn said. “Proud of her once again, especially coming in here and not letting anything rattle her.”
Sloan thought the atmosphere Saturday helped the Gators.
“Definitely a different experience and a learning experience. Coming into a hostile environment like this, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Sloan said. “There was a little bit of barking going on, but I think that is what fueled us. We definitely fed off of it and I think that is why we had such a great road team score.”
Georgia took a least a share of each apparatus title Saturday. UGA freshman Brandi Jay claimed the day’s vault title with her collegiate-best of 9.975. Sloan shared the uneven bars win with Chelsea Davis at 9.95. Lindsey Cheek and Brittany Rogers shared the beam win a 9.90 while senior Noel Couch used the same score to take the floor title.