Faehn takes chomp out of act

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 30, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

Rhonda Faehn decided to leave the Gator Chomp in Gainesville.

That wasn't what the 10,523 Georgia fans who packed Stegeman Coliseum in Athens, Ga., Saturday for the gymnastics meet between No. 1 Florida and No. 2 Georgia were expecting.

"It was our little secret," Faehn said.

When Faehn arrived at Florida five years ago, she implemented a choreographed Gator Chomp into each of her gymnasts' floor routines. The chomp is celebrated at home performances and typically met with indifference on the road. But not at Georgia.

In Florida's last visit to Georgia two seasons ago, Bulldogs fans booed Florida's gymnasts after they did the Gator Chomp during their floor routines. Not only was the booing discouraging, it also kept some of Florida's gymnasts from hearing their floor music.

"Georgia fans do this in good fun, but it really interrupts the routine," Faehn said. "You can't keep going without being distracted. We weren't going to put our athletes in that situation."

Faehn removed the Gator Chomp from Florida's routine last week during the team's first practice in preparation for last Saturday's meet at Georgia. The change was not made public, meaning the Bulldogs fans who came to the meet were expecting to to give the Gators a little light-hearted ribbing.

"It actually turned out to be pretty funny because that's all Georgia fans were looking forward to all week," Faehn said. "The student section came early and they were ready. That was kind of fun we stole their thunder."

The meet ended in somewhat disappointing fashion for both teams — a 197.250-all tie. Florida, however, remained No. 1 in Monday's GymInfo Coaches Poll.

Men's tennis team

changes outlook

The expectations have cooled down a little bit for Florida's men's tennis team.

A year ago, the Gators were ranked No. 1 in the country early in the season and talk of competing for a national title was rampant. The Gators will open their 2007 dual match season Wednesday with slightly lesser expectations.

Coach Andy Jackson said Monday his team is aiming to stay in the top 25 and make the NCAA Tournament this season.

"Frankly, I'd prefer to be in the situation where I can tell our team, 'Look, we're trying to win the NCAA title this year,'" Jackson said. "But you have to be honest with your players or they can tell when you're just telling one and then it would hurt us as the year went on."

Florida ran into a few unforeseen obstacles a year ago including the arrest and suspension of freshman sensation Ryan Sweeting, who is no longer with the team.

This year's team will be led by junior Greg Ouellette, ranked 16th nationally in singles, and Nestor Briceno, ranked No. 60. Senior Jordan Dolberg will return from a redshirt season to provide depth and experience.

Jackson said his team must take pride in their goals.

"We have to understand who we are," Jackson said. "We're trying to be a top 25 team. We have to be up front about it and excited about it."

The 17th-ranked Gators face UCF Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Ring Tennis Complex.

Around Campus

Florida's women's basketball team's strength of schedule ranks sixth nationally. That would typically bode well for a team vying for an NCAA Tournament as opposed to a team in danger of winning less than 10 games. ... The Gators' baseball team was left out of three major pre-season baseball polls — Baseball America, USA Today/ESPN and NCBWA. Judging by how the Gators handled being ranked pre-season No. 1 a year ago, being under the radar is probably the best thing for the Gators right now.

Contact Brandon Zimmerman at 374-5051 or zimmerb@gvillesun.com.

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