UF gymnastics gets test against 16th-ranked Wildcats

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 at 12:06 a.m.

Coming off the second-highest season-opening score in program history, the Florida gymnastics team, ranked No. 1 in the nation this week, opens SEC action tonight against No. 16 Kentucky in the O’Connell Center. Meet time is 7 p.m.


Today's meet

Who: No. 16 Kentucky vs. No. 1 Florida
When: 7 p.m.
Where: O’Connell Center
Tickets: $4 for adults, while children 17 and under and UF students with Gator1 cards are admitted free.

The Wildcats (2-0) got off to a solid start themselves, taking a home triangular meet over No. 17 Illinois and Northern Illinois last week with a winning score of 194.35.

The Gators (1-0), meanwhile, were led by the outstanding all-around efforts of sophomore Ashanee Dickerson, the 2010 SEC Freshman of the Year, and Alaina Johnson, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week, in downing No. 10 Nebraska, 196.925-194.95

“It was such a huge score, and it just shows how much talent this team has,” senior Alicia Goodwin said. “I think it was a big confidence booster for everyone, especially the freshmen. Our goal this week is to go out and be a tight team, just like we were last Friday night, and do gymnastics the way we know how to do it.”

“We came in on Sunday and watched the video and talked with the coaches about how last week was the best season opener we’ve had in the past few years, but we can’t really get lazy just because we had a great first meet,” added senior Maranda Smith. “Other teams are out there working hard to improve, so we have to keep working hard to improve, too.

“There were mistakes here and there, so we have to focus on those mistakes. As (assistant coach) Adrian (Burde) says, ‘We’re good, but we’re not good enough yet.’ We just have to keep pushing for excellence.”

Despite UF’s high opening score, expect to see some different faces in the lineup tonight as coach Rhonda Faehn continues to experiment with her deep and talented roster that now numbers 15 with the recent addition of freshman Jade Wiggins from Lake Mary. The 4-foot-10 Wiggins, who becomes the squad’s shortest member, graduated high school in December and just enrolled at UF.

“One of the areas we want to focus on throughout the whole season is making sure our athletes are being rested when they need to be rested,” Faehn said. “For instance, this Friday we may rest Maranda from the floor and vault events to give her a chance to get kind of geared up for our first away meet at LSU (Jan. 21). The same thing with Alaina; we have to be very careful with her. We’re not sure which meets we’ll be pulling her from. She’s not going to be able to do all-around at every meet.”

Faehn noted that the early lineup experiments have a two-fold benefit.

“The reason you’ll see some different lineups the first few weeks is to get more people out there and get them experienced so that they’re able to step up,” she said. “It’s not just for giving us depth for resting certain individuals, but in case there’s an illness or an injury or what-not, those athletes can step right in without an issue.

“Again, we’re just trying to get more people experienced. But it will be exciting because we’re going to see some new things, and it’s going to give an opportunity for others to rest a little bit.”

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