No. 4 UF gymnastics shines in pink, defeats LSU
Published: Friday, January 29, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 30, 2010 at 12:15 a.m.
The third-largest crowd in school history, 9,198 strong, turned out at the O'Connell Center for the fourth annual Link to Pink event and were treated to a season-best performance by the No. 4 Florida Gator gymnastics team Friday night.
The Gators (3-1, 3-0) got individual winning performances in three of the four events and had a scoring advantage in all four as they downed No. 13 LSU 196.725-195.050, setting a season-high team score in the process.
The annual meet is part of an SEC initiative to raise awareness about breast cancer, and the Gators, in their special pink and black leotards for the event, responded to the huge crowd by posting their biggest margin of victory thus far.
“We were so into our little bubble and we were just having so much fun,” UF head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “The girls were just performing so well and feeding off one another that it was like there was nobody else there in our heads.”
LSU senior Susan Jackson did earn the appreciation of the large crowd, as the eight-time All-American, who is the nation's top-ranked all-around gymnast, captured the all-around title with a score of 39.525.
UF freshman sensation Ashanee Dickerson, who had won the all-around in each of her first three collegiate meets, was relegated to second behind Jackson with a score of 39.450, with fellow freshman Marissa King third with a collegiate-best mark of 39.200.
Jackson captured the vault title with a 9.950, edging past the Gator duo of Dickerson (9.925) and sophomore Nicole Ellis (9.900, collegiate-best), who placed second and third. Other than that, it was pretty much all Gators.
Florida's Alicia Goodwin made it two wins in a row on the uneven bars with a great performance, earning a 9.925 to tie her collegiate-best, with senior Amanda Castillo tying LSU's Jackson for second at 9.875. Freshman Liz Green shared the beam title with Jackson, her second in a row, both posting a 9.825, with King and Dickerson joining LSU's Samantha Engle in a three-way tie for third at 9.775.
The Gators closed out the meet in style with senior Maranda Smith and Dickerson sharing the floor exercise crown with stirring routines that earned 9.925 scores, with sophomore Amy Ferguson third with a collegiate-best mark of 9.900.
“The perfect word would be fun,” said Smith, whose floor title was her first and whose score in the event matched her collegiate-best. “From the minute we walked out there in warmups, our team was just full of life and energy. We just had so much fun. We work so hard in the gym all the time and it seems like when we have fun, things go better. So we just tried to show off for our crowd of more than 9,000, which was great to see.”
Dickerson was admittedly awed by the environment.
“It was great. I've never seen that many people or competed in front of so many people,” said the soft-spoken freshman. “I love it here. It's getting better every week. It's better than club gymnastics because in club gymnastics, you compete for yourself, and here you compete for your school.”
All in all, it was another positive step for Faehn's young and talented squad as it continues to ready itself for championship competition.
“We're really excited about the progress that they've made so far, knowing that we could still do so much better,” she said. “We still have a lot of room for improvement.”
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