Florida looks to rebound in gymnastics home opener

Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 11:44 p.m.

The No. 8 Florida gymnastics team is more than just excited about making its home debut at 7 tonight in the O’Connell Center against No. 7 Arkansas.

Coming off a disappointing, season-opening performance last week on the road in a loss against then-No. 9 Oklahoma, UF (0-1) has plenty of motivation to perform better. Throw in the fact that this is the SEC and home opener and comes against a team that defeated Florida for the first time ever in dual meet competition last year in Fayetteville, and it’s easy to see why coach Rhonda Faehn’s 2010 squad is pumped.

“I’m just going to soak it all in,” said senior Amanda Castillo, who will be making her first appearance since suffering a partial tear of her left Achilles’ tendon last March that caused the seven-time All-American to miss all of the 2009 championship meets. “There’s nothing like competing before the home crowd. You get that extra adrenaline rush.”

“The whole team is really excited,” added senior Ashley Kerr. “We have a really talented team, and we’ve been looking forward to our first home meet ever since we started preseason.”

Gator gymnastics fans won’t see senior and nine-time All-American Melanie Sinclair, who was suspended from the team after her arrest in October on charges of storing firearms, televisions and computers, which Gainesville police say were taken in a series of burglaries by her then-boyfriend Bud Leonard Williams. Faehn said the dismissal was in Sinclair’s best interest.

“I made the decision that it’s best that she focus on her academics,” Faehn said. “She is continuing to go to school here, and she’s promised me she’s going to get her degree from here. I think that’s best. She really needs to focus on making positive choices in her life and getting her life back on track. And I believe that’s what she’s doing.

“Obviously we miss her, and we miss her spunk, but at the same time, she has to do what she needs to do.”

Arkansas (1-0, 0-0) defeated No. 20 Arizona at home last Friday. This marks the first time since 2004 UF has faced an SEC opponent in its home opener.

“We’re so thrilled to get our season at home going,” Faehn said. “It’s always hard to start on the road, so we love competing in our arena in front of our home crowd. We just get such great fan support that we are really, really looking forward to it.”

A 2-for-1 general admission coupon for tonight’s meet, which can be printed out and redeemed at the O’Dome ticket office, can be found on the University of Florida Facebook page. Regular admission is $4 for adults, with children 17 and under and UF students with ID free. In addition, fans who present their ticket stubs from this past Tuesday’s UF-Kentucky basketball game will also receive free admission.

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