UF GYMNASTICS

Second-highest score lifts UF


Published: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 24, 2004 at 12:25 a.m.

Rhonda Faehn and her Florida gymnasts talked it up. The Gators promised improvement and special things before this gymnastics season. It was a surprising take, given Florida's record-setting season a year ago.

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Junior Erinn Dooley put on quite a show, matching or setting three season-bests. Dooley won the vault with a score of 9.875 and followed it up by coming in second in the beam with her collegiate-best-tying score of 9.925. She then finished third in the floor with a 9.850.

CHRISTINA STUART/The Gainesville Sun

But three meets into the season, third-ranked Florida is living up to its own hype. The Gators recorded the second-best score in school history Friday night at the Florida Quad Meet in the O'Connell Center, dazzling the crowd of 3,711 with a score of 197.225.

The Gators fell just shy of the school record 197.475 set Feb. 14, 2003, but appear to be well on their way to eventually surpassing that mark this season.

North Carolina State finished second with a score of 194.875, followed by Michigan State (194.475) and Illinois-Chicago (192.675). N.C. State and Michigan State each recorded season-high scores.

Florida, meanwhile, made the evening even sweeter for itself by tying the school's beam record. The score of 49.500 matches the mark set Feb. 14, 2003.

With just three meets behind them, the Gators are pretty excited about how they've started this season and where they are going.

"Since it's only the third meet of the year, we still have room for improvement," junior Orley Szmuch said. "Because we're still experimenting with the lineup, later in the season we'll be even more comfortable."

Right now, the Gators appear comfortable enough. Szmuch won the all-around title with a 39.475, followed by freshman Breanne King, who had a 39.375. Szmuch and King finished one and two in the all-around for the second straight week.

"This definitely doesn't get old," Szmuch said.

Junior Erinn Dooley put on quite a show herself, matching or setting three season-bests. Dooley won the vault with a score of 9.875 and followed it up by coming in second in the beam with her collegiate-best-tying score of 9.925. She then finished third in the floor with a 9.850.

"I absolutely saw this coming," Faehn said. "She's in the best shape of her life, and you can see that competitive spirit and fire."

To top it off, Dooley scored a 9.90 on an exhibition routine on the bars.

"My confidence is definitely getting higher," Dooley said. "I'm just coming in, having fun and enjoying it."

Szmuch took the floor title with a 9.90, followed by Florida freshman Samantha Lutz, Dooley and N.C. State's Kylah Bachman at 9.85.

Faehn said although her team did well on the beam, the Gators' best event is still the bars. Nevertheless, with three upperclassmen and freshmen King, Lutz and Katie Rue performing on the beam Friday, it was a good mix.

"We have so much consistency and strength there," Faehn said. "With four upperclassmen returning there, you take that and you mix in some excellent freshmen and you get a recipe for success."

You can reach Brandon Zimmerman by calling 374-5051 or by e-mail at zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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