Florida gymnasts open season in style

Published: Saturday, January 12, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 11, 2008 at 11:39 p.m.

There were plenty of impressive numbers put up in Florida's season-opening gymnastics meet Friday night. The most impressive came from the cell phone of Darcie Burde.

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UF's Tiffany Murray performs on the vault during Friday's meet.

Aaron Daye/The Gainesville Sun

Second-ranked Florida defeated Illinois-Chicago, 197.125 to 187.825, in front of 5,129 fans in the O'Connell Center. The Gators were without head coach Rhonda Faehn, who missed the meet after giving birth to her first child late Tuesday night.

Faehn, who was still in a Gainesville hospital as of meet time, kept tabs on her team by sending over 35 text messages to Darcie Burde, wife of Gators assistant coach Adrian Burde. Faehn must have liked the information she got back.

Florida's score was its highest in a season-opener in school history. Florida's previous season-opening high was a 196.525 in 2003. The Gators missed Faehn, but were relieved she didn't show up.

"I'm glad she didn't do it," Adrian Burde said. "Family is very important."

Still, the Gators felt a little lonely without her.

"We still missed her so much," Burde added. "She is the heart of this team."

In Faehn's absence, Burde, fellow assistant Robert Ladanyi and volunteer assistant Jeremy Miranda coached the team. The Gators said Faehn's absence didn't hurt their performance because they had planned for weeks in advance for this situation.

"She will usually come up to you before and after every routine and give words of encouragement," sophomore Melanie Sinclair said. "Most of it is embedded in our head. So it was like she was there."

Florida's gymnasts approached Faehn on Monday and told her not to feel any pressure to show up Friday.

"She wanted to be here really bad," sophomore Amanda Castillo said. "But we told her no pressure. But I know she still wanted to be here. This is her second love."

Florida was guided by Sinclair, who won the all-around title with a 39.525. Junior Corey Hartung won the vault with a career-best 9.90. Sinclair and Castillo tied for the bars title with a 9.925. Sinclair and Hartung shared the beam title with a 9.875. Castillo and senior Nicola Willis won the floor with a 9.925.

"We went out and kicked butt," Sinclair said. "We did what we do every day in the gym."

Florida scored a 49.300 on vault, 49.375 on bars, 49.125 on beam and a 49.325 on floor. It was an encouraging start with top-ranked and three-time defending national champion Georgia coming to town next Friday.

"It feels great to get the first one out of the way, get out the jitter bugs," Sinclair said. "Now, we're ready for the season."

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