Gymnastics tops No. 3 Dawgs
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 25, 2012 at 12:03 a.m.
The top-ranked Florida Gators took care of business Friday night, downing No. 3 Georgia 197.525-196.825 before an O'Connell Center crowd of 6,134 as both squads closed out their SEC dual-meet schedules.
It was just UF's second dual-meet win over the Gym Dogs since 1990, the other coming when Georgia last visited the O-Dome in 2010.
While neither team was at its best — Florida's score was its third-highest of the season and Georgia's was its fourth-highest — UF's Kytra Hunter continued to shine bright.
The true freshman from Frederick, Md., won her fourth all-around title of the season with a winning score of 39.675 that is not only her collegiate-best, but is tied for the No. 7 all-time mark in UF history. In addition, she won both the vault and floor exercise titles as well with matching 9.95s, matching her collegiate-best on the former.
“She's amazing,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I can't say enough about how incredible she is, not just as a talented athlete, but as a strong mental competitor.”
She also has quickly picked up on the Florida-Georgia sports rivalry.
“Georgia is our rival and they came to our house and they had the mindset of beating us in our own house,” Hunter said. “We had the mindset of beating them.”
Junior All-America Marissa King gave UF a sweep of all five titles as she took home wins in both the uneven bars and balance beam, posting marks of 9.925 and 9.95, respectively, equaling her collegiate-bests in both events.
She put an exclamation point on her beam win, which was her fifth of the season, by sticking her landing and then holding the pose as if frozen in time for a few seconds before being mobbed by her teammates.
“I love competing at home; it's just so awesome every time,” King said. “It's always fun performing in front of a great responding crowd, and that's what we had tonight.
“Inside my body I was just screaming because I was so happy. It was just great energy, and it's awesome to have a team to run back to and share that energy and that passion for gymnastics with.”
Several Gators noted they had perhaps too much energy for the meet with the Gym Dogs. It looked that way several times, most notably on UF's final event, the floor exercise, which is usually one of the Gators' strongest events.
Senior Amy Ferguson got UF off to a great start with a 9.85, but the next three Gators each stepped out of bounds at some point — an automatic .10 deduction — and none of them posted better than a 9.80.
Junior All-America Ashanee Dickerson came to the rescue, though, with her usual crowd-pleasing floor routine that netted her a 9.925, and Hunter capped the evening with her winning 9.95. But even that came with a scare as she appeared to be headed out of bounds on her initial pass but somehow managed to stay in and went on to win the event.
“She could have easily stepped out of bounds on that first pass, but there was no way she was going to do that,” Faehn said. “She knew it, she knew where she was, and she took a very small lunge. She's a very smart gymnast. She is very motivated and it shows. It comes out in her performances.”
Dickerson placed second in the all-around with a score of 39.575, while King and Georgia All-America Kat Ding tied for third with matching marks of 39.450.
Faehn felt that overall it was a good night for her team, who improved to 9-1, 5-1 while Georgia slipped to 5-3, 4-2.
“I think they did a really good job, just their overall focus but also their energy — just the way they attacked the events,” she said. “Obviously, going out of bounds three times in a row on the floor was a little bit shocking, but at the same time, I've always told them I want it going at one hundred percent, full throttle, and that's what they were doing. They were so hyped up and energized that that's where those mistakes came from. I don't want them holding back.”
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