Gymnastics set to begin season


Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 9, 2009 at 4:35 p.m.

It is not the BCS championship. Nor is it the gridiron at all. But it is still Florida vs. Oklahoma, squaring off tonight in a gymnastics showdown that will feature two of the nation’s top 10 teams as the Gators host the Sooners at the O’Connell Center.

Facts

Friday night's season opener

Who: No. 10 Oklahoma
at No. 3 Florida

When: 7

Where: O’Connell Center

The Gators, who begin 2009 with a preseason ranking of No. 3 according to the Gyminfo poll, are the only team who will face only preseason top-25 teams during the 2009 regular season.

No. 10 Oklahoma comes into town as one of six top-10 opponents who will take on the Gators this year.

The Sooners, winners of last year’s Big 12 title, have fared well against the SEC, posting a total of 196.75 in performance points over two consecutive weeks against Auburn and Arkansas during the 2008 season. According to Gator head coach Rhonda Faehn, the Sooners’ success last season against the SEC should not result in any shift in momentum whatsoever.

“It really doesn’t matter,” Faehn said. “Every year there is a new approach. Oklahoma is a strong team, they faced us in the nationals, I am sure they are looking for strong competition. The main focus for us is to get out there and hit our routines.”

Florida came just shy of its own conference championship last season, tying Alabama for second place behind Georgia. The Bulldogs outdistanced both the Gators and the Crimson Tide by a tiny .025 margin. Also in 2008, the Gators qualified for the NCAA Championships for the 26th time out of the last 27 seasons, finishing fourth overall.

Among the gymnasts on the Gators’ roster are three returning All-Americans. Amanda Castillo, Corey Hartung, and Melanie Sinclair all received first-and second-team honors in multiple events.

Also in the mix is Courtney Gladys, a 5-foot-1 junior from Winter Garden. Gladys worked hard during the offseason and is expecting to contribute more in 2009.

“I am glad to be given the chance, we have all worked hard and become more like a family,” Gladys said.

Florida will also feature four freshman this year. Faehn anticipates an immediate impact from her freshmen gymnasts who will be making their first collegiate appearance.

“Our freshmen are going to be a huge factor in the success of this team,” Faehn said. “We are going to work them in gently at first and allow them to get used to the competition of this level.”

Hartung returns as the Gators’ only returning senior, having racked up nine All-American honors in her collegiate career.

“I feel as if I can help this team more being the only senior,” Hartung said. “Everybody does something different to help motivate, and I can provide the leadership due to my experience.”

But lets not forget about the irony of tonight’s meet considering what is going on in the football world. According to Hartung, tonight’s meet is as exciting as it is unexpected.

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