Gymnastics focused on winning elusive NCAA title

Kentucky at Florida Gymnastics
Kentucky at Florida Gymnastics

Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn congratulates Ashanee Dickerson after the vault against Kentucky on Jan. 14.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, April 15, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 15, 2011 at 12:00 a.m.

Twelve teams begin the quest for a national title today when the 2011 NCAA Gymnastics Championships get under way at the Wolstein Arena in Cleveland, Ohio.

One of them is the Florida Gators, a team that was ranked No. 1 for basically the entire season but is coming off a rocky North Central Regional in Denver, Colo., two weeks ago. UF, which was seeking its seventh consecutive NCAA regional crown, advanced to nationals by virtue of a runner-up finish that came by the slimmest of possible margins (.025).

“It's here, and we're really excited,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “We have had really great training since we came back from regionals, and this team has once again committed to one another that, heading into this national championship, we're going to leave with no regrets. They're going to compete with their hearts and they're going to put it all on the line. They're going to compete with everything they have and not compete timid or fearful.”

UF, which enters the meet as the No. 5 seed, has recorded five straight top-five NCAA finishes under Faehn, who is in her ninth season. But the Gators are still chasing that elusive first NCAA title.

Of course, they have plenty of company. The 29 titles awarded in gymnastics since the NCAA began sanctioning the sport in 1982 are shared by just four teams – Utah, UCLA, Alabama and Georgia.

“I think everyone's relaxed,” said sophomore and two-time Southeast Region Gymnast of the Year Ashanee Dickerson. “We know we can do the skills, so we just want to go out there and have fun and make it a good weekend.”

There will be two semifinal sessions today with the top three teams from each session advancing to Saturday's Super Six competition at 4 p.m., where the national champion will be crowned. Individual championships will be held Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.

The Gators will take part in Session II today, which begins at 6 p.m. UF will be joined by top-seeded Alabama, No. 4 Oregon State, No. 8 Utah, No. 9 Nebraska and No. 12 Kent State, the host school.

Defending champion and No. 2 seed UCLA, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 6 Michigan, No. 7 Georgia, No. 10 Arkansas and No. 11 Illinois will get the meet started in Session I beginning at noon.

“Every single year, the national championship gets more difficult because there's so much more parity and all the teams are great,” Faehn said. “That's why our focus is only on our first session and advancing out of that session.

“Those teams that advance and go on to the Super Six, every one of them, if they bring their ‘A' game, has a great chance to win. So for us, our focus is on what we have to do and not on the teams that are there because they're all great teams.”

Live results from the meet will be available throughout the weekend at both and

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