UF gymnastics opens season with win
Published: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2012 at 11:53 p.m.
RALEIGH, N.C. — The preseason No. 3 Florida gymnastics team opened the 2012 season Friday with a 196.025-194.675 win at North Carolina State in front of a Reynolds Coliseum crowd of 2,512.
The Gators (1-0) claimed at least a share of four of the evening's five event titles, including freshman Kytra Hunter taking the all-around win.
It was the season opener for both teams so the minor mistakes that appeared in the routines for the teams were expected. And Florida coach Rhonda Faehn saw no red flags in the Gators' performances.
“I think they did a great job,” Faehn said. “They did exactly what we were looking for. We want to start out a lot slower this year which is a little bit different strategy than last year. We wanted to compete a lot of different athletes tonight. Our freshmen did a really great job and were able to get their feet wet. We were able to rest some of upperclassmen.
“Overall, I was very pleased with their performance. It's a starting point. We are working to pace our athletes so that we can peak at the end of the year.”
Hunter was one of four Gator freshmen making their collegiate debuts, and she took home a pair of event titles — all-around (39.30) and floor exercise (9.90). She is now the fourth Gator in the last 25 years to win the all-around in Florida's season opener. All four of those winners have come since Faehn took over the Gator program for the 2003 season.
“I'm really proud of Kytra. She has a tremendous work ethic and is all business. It was really fun to see her get out there tonight and love performing,” Faehn said.
For Hunter, a member of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 U.S. Senior National Teams, Friday night was a chance to get a feel for the collegiate stage.
“As a freshman, I just wanted to have fun and get my nerves out. It was a great outcome and I'm proud of it,” Hunter said. “I know that I need to go back into the gym and work on the little things I messed up here.”
Gator event winners Friday included sophomore All-American Alaina Johnson, who claimed her sixth collegiate bars title with a 9.875.
Johnson shared sixth in the 2011 NCAA uneven bars final. Two other Gators posted 9.80s on bars, as junior All-Americans Ashanee Dickerson and Marissa King shared second on the event.
That duo claimed a share of the evening's balance beam title with N.C. State's Jess Panza at 9.825. It was the ninth beam win for Dickerson and the third for King. NC State's Diahanna Ham just edged out Hunter and UF senior Nicole Ellis for the evening's vault title. Ham earned a 9.875 while the Gator pair shared second at 9.85.
King thought the meet went well for the Gators and gives the team definite points to work on in the upcoming training sessions.
“I think as a team we did really well, especially for the first meet of the season,” King said.
Florida now returns home to play host to a pair of events. Meet the Team is set for 1 p.m. Sunday in the Ted Crom Gymnastics Studio. Admission is free and fans are encouraged to enter at Gate 4 of the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. The Gators will sign autographs following the event.
The home season opens on Friday at 7 p.m. when Illinois-Chicago visits the O'Connell Center.