Florida gymnastics rolls in first home meet

Published: Friday, January 15, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 16, 2010 at 12:05 a.m.

Home sweet home.

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Florida freshmen gymnast Randy Stageberg performs on the balance beam during a gymnastics meet against Arkansas at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Friday, January 15, 2010.

Aaron E. Daye/The Gainesville Sun

The No. 8 Florida Gator gymnastics team rebounded from a season-opening road loss to No. 9 Oklahoma by outpointing No. 7 Arkansas in every event en route to a solid 196.575-195.925 win before a highly appreciative crowd of 4,715 at the O’Connell Center on Friday.

With the win, UF improved to 1-1, 1-0 while the Razorbacks slipped to 1-1, 0-1.

“It was a definite improvement from last week,” said UF head coach Rhonda Faehn. “First of all, we didn’t have to count any falls. I think we competed more aggressively, even though we did have errors. But we wanted to see the team go for everything, and that’s what we saw.”

It was the first chance Gator fans had to see Faehn’s top-ranked freshman class, and they were not disappointed. Leading the way was highly touted recruit Ashanee Dickerson from Jacksonville, who wowed the crowd with her performance and captured her second all-around title in as many meets. Dickerson racked up a score of 39.475, scoring a 9.925 on the vault, a pair of 9.825s on the bars and beam, and capping her performance with a 9.90 in the floor exercise that brought the crowd to its feet.

In addition to her all-around win, Dickerson claimed first place in the vault, tied for first with Arkansas’ Jamie Pisani on the floor and tied for third on the balance beam with teammates Randy Stageberg and Rebekah Zaiser.

“She is amazing,” Faehn said. “I think she’s the best freshman in the SEC. She’s loaded with even more potential than what she’s doing now. She’s just sort of getting started.”

The shy freshman seemed a bit stunned by it all.

“It was amazing,” she said of her first home meet. “I’ve been coming here since I was eight years old to watch the Gators, and just to be out on the floor in a Gator leotard was a dream come true.”

Arkansas did claim the No. 2 and No. 3 all-around spots, with senior Casey Jo Magee, who claimed the balance beam title with a 9.90, edging Pisani for runner-up honors, 39.450-39.375. Another UF freshman, Marissa King (39.10), took fourth, highlighted by a 9.825 on the floor.

“This was my first experience at a home meet, and I have to say the crowd was phenomenal,” said the Cambridge, England native, who was a member of Great Britain’s 2008 Olympic team. “I was quite pleased with my performance, as I am still adapting to college gymnastics. I’ve been doing elite for so long that coming here is a big change. But it’s so much more fun and is a great experience. I love it.”

Senior Maranda Smith picked up her first bars title with a 9.875 score.

“Last week I fell on one of my release moves for the first time in my life, so coming out and winning tonight was really exciting,” Smith said.

UF takes to the road again next Friday for an SEC meet against Kentucky.

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