Gymnasts romp in Link to Pink

Florida gymnast Randy Stageberg competes in the floor exercise against LSU. Florida defeated LSU, 197.850-196.850.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, February 10, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 12:06 a.m.

There's something about Florida's annual Link to Pink meet that always brings out the biggest crowd of the year.

It also tends to bring out the best in the Gator gymnasts, and Friday night was no different.

The fourth-ranked Gators dazzled the O'Connell Center crowd of 8,112 — the seventh-largest in program history — by downing visiting LSU 197.850-196.850 in the sixth annual Link to Pink meet.

The score was not only a season high for UF, but is the fifth-highest mark in Gator history and is also the top score in the nation this year.

The win, coming one week after the Gators suffered their first defeat of the season at No. 1 Alabama, improved UF to 7-1, 3-1 while the Tigers slipped to 2-7, 2-3 despite also posting a season-high score.

“There were things we were not happy about at Alabama,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was a good performance, but not what we want in the postseason. These athletes really worked hard this week and were very diligent, and they all contributed tonight. It was a total team effort.”

Junior and five-time All-America Ashanee Dickerson led the way, winning her second all-around title in a row at home with a 39.60 that matched her season-high from two weeks ago.

“She (Dickerson) is just so calm,” Faehn said. “She really worked hard on her landings and her polish this week, and it really showed. She is just amazing.”

The Gators got off to a great start, setting a season-high mark of 49.40 on the vault led by sophomore and three-time All-America Alaina Johnson's 9.95 that tied her collegiate best.

UF carried that momentum over to the uneven bars, where four Gators — Dickerson, Johnson, junior six-time All-America Marissa King and sophomore standout Mackenzie Caquatto — all shared the event title with matching marks of 9.90.

Freshman sensation Kytra Hunter posted a collegiate-best 9.925 to tie LSU's Rheagan Courville for the balance beam title, and UF capped the evening with a season-high 49.625 on the floor, led by Hunter's winning 9.975, the highest score by a freshman in the event in school history.

In addition, Dickerson tied her collegiate-best on the floor with a 9.95, King scored a 9.925 and junior Randy Stageberg posted a collegiate-best mark of 9.90.

Florida's score on the event, meanwhile, was only .025 short of the school record (49.630).

“It was exciting,” Stageberg said. “Everyone went out and really performed well and had a good time. We put in a lot of hard work this week, and it was nice to see it show. The crowd was amazing.”

LSU's Courville finished second on the vault (9.925) and tied Florida's King for third place in the all-around at 39.40, while LSU's Lloimincia Hall placed second behind the Dickerson with a score of 39.45.

But this night was about a lot more than topping another opponent, and as usual, UF's night of pink turned rosy. Four of the top eight crowds in program history have now come at Link to Pink meets.

“It's just an amazing event, and we are so proud to be able to host an event like this,” Faehn said. “It is so wonderful to have such support for such a great cause, and every year, it just gets better.”

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