UF gets visit from GymDogs

Head coach Rhonda Faehn congratulates a gymnast after her performance on the vault at the Stephen C. O'Connell center on Friday, Jan. 27, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Arkansas, Maryland and Bridgeport.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 24, 2012 at 12:15 a.m.

There are three things you can usually count on when Florida and Georgia square off in gymnastics like the two SEC rivals will tonight at 7 in the O'Connell Center.

Look for a large crowd, great gymnastics and a close score.

This is the 18th time in the last 20 meetings that one of these programs brings the No. 1 ranking into the competition — this year it's UF — and six of the last nine dual meets between them have been decided by a half point or less.

In addition, two of the top five all-time O-Dome crowds have shown up for dual meets with the GymDogs, including a school-record 10,855 in 2008 when No. 1 UF met No. 2 Georgia.

The top-ranked Gators (8-1, 4-1) are coming off a 197.50-196.875 road win at No. 17 Auburn that moved them from third to first in the latest GymInfo national rankings, while Georgia (5-2, 4-1), currently tied for the No. 3 spot with defending NCAA champ Alabama, downed visiting Kentucky, 197.225-193.125.

Leading the way against Auburn was UF sophomore All-America Alaina Johnson. The Lone Star State standout from Tyler, Texas, was the lone Gator competing in all four individual events last weekend and won the all-around title with a score of 39.625 that is a season-high mark for the Gators. It was her first all-around title of the season and fourth of her career, earning her SEC Gymnast of the Week honors.

“I'm definitely excited with how I performed,” Johnson said. “I'm just glad I could go out there and do it for my team.”

Head coach Rhonda Faehn gave UF's other top all-around performers, like juniors Ashanee Dickerson and Marissa King and freshman Kytra Hunter, a little rest against the Tigers, but Johnson came through with a dominating performance, with her score just .05 off her collegiate-best mark of 39.675.

“I'm the type of person who does not pay attention to scores,” Johnson said. “I've always been like that. That's the way my coaches were back at home. They always taught me to just worry about the things you can control, not the ones you can't like scores.

“All of us have so much confidence in everybody who goes out there. It doesn't matter if they are a top all-arounder or just competing in one event. It's nice to have such depth on our team and be able to rest people if we need to. That's really nice.”

Tonight's meet also will feature a pair of 2011 NCAA individual champions in UF's King (vault) and Georgia's Kat Ding (uneven bars).

Tickets are $4 for adults while children 17-and-under and UF students with Gator 1 cards are admitted free.

“It should be an awesome competition,” Faehn said. “Of course there's going to be some wonderful gymnastics and it will be a great challenge for everyone involved. I think it will be awesome for our team to get back out there in our home environment and hopefully put on a wonderful show.”

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