Gymnastics opens SEC play with win

Published: Friday, January 16, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 17, 2009 at 12:04 a.m.

No.1 Florida defeated Auburn 196.500 to 196.250 to open up its SEC conference schedule in front of a crowd of 4,771 at the O’Connell Center. It was the Gators’ second consecutive meet against a top ten opponent this season.

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Florida's Corey Hartung demonstrates her flexibility as she performs on the balance beam scoring a 9.925 against Auburn on Friday, January 16, 2009.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer

Last week the Gators nipped preseason No. 10 ranked Oklahoma 196.500-195.075.

Corey Hartung sizzled, finishing with a 39.475 all-around score and a first place finish with a 9.95 on floor. “Every time Corey competes she has the potential to win an all-around, I am not surprised, but very grateful that she can go out there and show her leadership,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said.

Maranda Smith began the night with an event high 9.90 on vault followed by Nicole Ellis and Melanie Sinclair at 9.85. Smith, a junior, was competing in her first competitive vault since 2006.

“The experience is wonderful. I was more excited than nervous to get out there. It had been three years since my last competitive vault, there were no doubts whatsoever that I could become a competitive vaulter again,” Smith said.

The Gators (2-0, 1-0 in SEC) finished with a meet high 49.500 on bars with scores of 9.95 coming from both Hartung and Sinclair. Smith and Amanda Castillo tied for second at 9.85.

The Gators’ beam total of 48.325, their lowest since 2006, dropped them behind the Tigers after winning the first two events. Hartung led on the beam for the Gators with a 9.75.

Auburn (1-2, 0-2 in SEC) finished with a beam total of 49.025, thanks in part to Lindsey Puckett and Rachel Innis (9.90). Puckett, who shared the 2008 SEC Gymnast of the Year award with LSU’s Ashleigh Clare-Kearney, also led Auburn in the all-around competition with a score of 39.400.

After the beam, Florida trailed Auburn going into its final event on floor. Courtney Gladys led off the floor event for the Gators with a score of 9.75 followed by freshman Amy Ferguson with a 9.85. The Gators clinched a victory with strong finishes by Sinclair (9.85), Hartung (9.95), Smith (9.90), and Elizabeth Mahlich (9.85).

“We changed our lineup a bit with the injuries lately. We also changed Courtney’s routine and she nailed it,” Faehn said. The injuries include junior Rebekah Zaiser who’s season ended during the week when she broke her foot during practice. Also, Amanda Castillo has been competing with ankle bursitis, which kept her out of Friday’s floor competition.

“It was tough playing through the injuries, we have always had the strongest most competitive athletes, it has kinda been a luxury. Now we are a bit shorthanded and that call for us to look at what is most important. We have a tough schedule down the road as well, so we have to be smart,” Faehn added.

Florida’s SEC opener was the sixth home meet in front of its home crowd as the nation’s top ranked team. The Gators came into Friday’s meet ranked No.1 on beam (49.175) and floor (49.175).

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