Debut for coach, Gators this year

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2003 at 10:28 p.m.


Coming up


  • WHAT: No. 8 Florida at Super Six Challenge
  • WHEN: 4 p.m. today.
  • WHERE: Stegeman Coliseum, Athens, Ga.
  • THE FACTS: All six teams competing in today's meet are ranked in the top 20, including defending NCAA champion Alabama, ranked third. Also in the meet are No. 2 Georgia, No. 5 Nebraska, No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 19 Penn State. This is the season opener for everyone except the Bulldogs and Cornhuskers, who met in a dual meet last weekend. Nebraska topped Georgia 196-45-195.40 in Lincoln. ... The Gators have competed in every Super Six Challenge since the meet's inauguration in 2000. They have steadily improved their finish every season, placing last in 2000, fifth in 2001 and fourth last year.
    Women's swimming and diving
  • WHAT: No. 5 Texas (3-2) at No. 2 Florida (7-0).
  • WHEN: 5 p.m. today.
  • WHERE: O'Connell Center.
  • THE FACTS: After a monthlong break, the Gators resume their schedule today against the Longhorns. Florida is looking to continue its success from the fall. Florida won the female university title at the U.S. Open to cap off a perfect fall schedule. Sarah McLarty is a big reason for the Gators' impressive fall. She is ranked in the top 10 in four events and has the best time in the 1,000-yard freestyle. Meanwhile, Texas is coming off a loss against Georgia. Leading the Longhorns is sophomore Sarah Wanezek, who has top-10 national times in four events.

  • There are some traditions the Florida gymnastics team probably does not mind continuing, particularly the one of consistently qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
    But one trend the Gators want to break in their first season under coach Rhonda Faehn is the trademark low scores to start the year.
    "We wanted to have them prepared and to make a statement right from the start," said Faehn, who makes her collegiate head coaching debut in today's Super Six Challenge in Athens, Ga. "Obviously we're not going to be at the very best right now because it's a long season. There's no way we'd be able to peak when we need to at nationals if we were at our best right now, but we still want to come out very strong and have a great competition from the start."
    Florida's best season-opening score was 194.425 in the 2001 Super Six Challenge.
    Even in 1998, when the Gators had their program-best second-place finish at the NCAA Championships, they failed to pass the 196 mark until midway through the season. They averaged 194.56 in their first five meets and opened the season with their first dual-meet loss to Kentucky with a 192.250 total.
    Florida has reason to believe, however, it will score high in today's meet based on last month's exhibition meet, when the team totaled 195.80.
    "Sometimes it can really be a downer. It can be really hard to come up after having a slow start," senior Lindsey Miner said. "Hopefully this weekend will show that we will be contenders for the SEC Championships and for NCAAs. We're going up against some of the top teams right now and it's a good test for us."
    Part of the reason for the high projected scores is that the gymnasts have increased their difficulty on their routines in the preseason.
    "Everyone probably has at least one new skill in their routines this year," Miner said. "The difficulty has increased and you can see that on every event. And not only the difficulty (has increased) but the consistency as well, and that's key in college gymnastics."
    While Faehn said competition to get in the event lineup has been tough, some of the Gators' top new gymnasts will be restricted on certain events or not compete at all.
    Three-year U.S. National Team member Amanda Stroud, also recovering from a shoulder injury, is restricted to vault and floor exercise.
    Two-time All-American Alecia Ingram, who transferred from Nebraska during the summer, will be held out of today's meet, as she still is recovering from shoulder surgery she underwent prior to last season.
    Faehn said Ingram is close to competing in three events, but the coach is cautious about rushing the recovery time.
    "We don't want to push her because we need her for the long haul and it takes a long time to come back from the type of injury that she's had," Faehn said. "So it's better to play it safe in the beginning with her."
    Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or yond@gvillesun.com.

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