UF SPORTS NOTEBOOK

UF expects big things from walk-on gymnast


Published: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 2, 2003 at 12:19 a.m.

The Florida gymnastics team welcomed a big addition, in a number of ways, in walk-on Sherie Owens this weekend.

Standing 5 feet 8, Owens is one of the tallest gymnasts in UF history.

"She is a taller gymnast, so with that brings absolutely beautiful lines, more of an elegant gymnast," first-year UF coach Rhonda Faehn said.

But Owens, who is eligible this season, is adding more than height to the team.

"I'm really excited about having Sherie as an addition to the team," Faehn said. "As far as an impact competing wise, she actually could be making a dramatic impact immediately. She could be in the vault lineup and possibly (uneven) bars lineup. Floor (exercise) and (balance) beam could take a little longer. I just made up her beam routine today and floor, we're going to have to do another one for her as well."

Owens could not start practicing with the Gators until after the Christmas break because she was not enrolled in fall classes. She tried getting enrolled in the fall but was late on her application. And as a walk-on athlete, the coaches could not help her and Owens had to wait until the spring enrollment.

Owens brings in a strong résumé at the club level - she trained at the Southern Stars Gymnastics Academy in Dothan, Ala. - but injuries limited her national exposure.

She did have good results when she was healthy.

At the 2002 USAG Level 10 Optional Alabama State Championships, she was the all-around, bars, beam and floor champion and the runner-up on vault. She also is a five-time Level 10 state all-around champion.

"She has experienced competing at a higher level, under the pressures of Level-10 competition," Faehn said. "She was able to gain confidence competing at that level, and that's definitely going to help her collegiately."

The Gators begin their season Jan. 11 at the Super Six Challenge in Athens, Ga.

  • BACK TO THE GRIND: The women's tennis team will have multiple chances to play against the country's best this season.

    The Gators are one of 16 teams in the USTA/ITA National Women's Team Indoor Championships, held Feb. 6-9 in Madison, Wis. The other schools are Cal, Duke, defending NTI champion Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Northwestern, defending NCAA champion Stanford, Southern Cal, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulsa, UCLA, Wake Forest, William & Mary and host Wisconsin.

    Florida has been absent from this tournament the past three seasons. But it won the title the past three times it played in the top indoor tournament (1996, '97 and '99).

    The Gators have won the NTI title six times, which ties Stanford for the record, including the inaugural event in 1988. They have an overall 37-5 record in this tournament. Georgia is the only other school to have won the tournament and has done so three times.

    Florida enters its second season under Roland Thornqvist this spring. He led the Gators to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships last season.

    The national rankings are not released until Jan. 13, but several UF players are ranked in singles and doubles in the South Region. Lindsay Dawaf is second in singles in the region and is followed by Alexis Gordon (fourth), Julia Scaringe (fifth), Zerene Reyes (eighth), Julie Rotondi (ninth) and Jennifer Magley (18th).

    In doubles, Gordon and Scaringe are the top-ranked pair in the region, while Dawaf and Rotondi (fifth) and Magley and Reyes (ninth) also are in the top 10.

  • HITHER AND YON: Florida still is waiting for its first points in the NACDA Directors' Cup. In the second update of the fall standings, which includes men's and women's cross country, field hockey and men's and women's soccer, the Gators have yet to receive any points. They will get 75 points for the volleyball team's third-place finish and the football team will receive points if it finished in the USA Today Top 25. Florida is 20th, but lost to Michigan in the Outback Bowl Wednesday.

    Doris Yon covers UF athletics for The Sun. You can reach her by calling (352) 374-5052 or by e-mail at yond@gvillesun.com.

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