Spicer contributing early for UF gymnastics
Published: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6:37 p.m.
Rachel Spicer could easily be back home hanging out with her friends in Highland Village, Texas, shopping for dresses for the upcoming senior prom.
Who: Utah at Florida
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stephen C. O'Connell Center
Instead, this 5-foot-1, 17-year-old bundle of athleticism is about to take part in a much different spring experience known as the Division I postseason.
Spicer, who graduated early from high school in December and enrolled at the University of Florida for the winter term, has stepped in and done a remarkable job adjusting to everything from college life to college gymnastics.
She has competed on the balance beam in all nine meets and seven times in the vault for the No. 1-ranked Gators heading into Friday's regular-season finale at home against Utah, posting collegiate-best marks of 9.875 in both events over the course of the last three meets.
She has also broken into the floor exercise lineup twice and added three floor exhibitions, and she has done four exhibition routines on the uneven bars as well, recording her best marks of 9.85 and 9.875, respectively, at UF's Link to Pink meet win over LSU on Feb. 10.
“It is way different,” Spicer said. “Everything is team-related; nothing is individual. I knew that coming in here, but I just like it a lot better. Everyone has your back and wants you to do well.”
Head coach Rhonda Faehn has been very impressed.
“It's extremely daunting,” she said. “People don't realize how difficult it is first of all, but then adding in the fact she is only seventeen. She has acclimated to this very well, and I think she has done a really, really wonderful job of coming in, working very hard and stepping into the lineup. Again, that's really difficult to do.
“In our last meet (against Nebraska), that was probably the best vault I've seen her do all year long, so that's really exciting to see she is continuing to get better there. She has just been very solid, and I genuinely feel that she will only get better as she gets older and gets more experience here at Florida.”
Spicer was the all-around champion at the 2010 Junior Olympic Level 10 Championships and was a four-time member (2008-2011) of the U.S. National Team.
“She still has a tremendous vault that she did in competitions last year that she hasn't done yet,” Faehn said. “But she was late coming in, and we always want them to start conservatively. I'm sure she's going to continue to be a solid contributor on vault. She just has to get used to things a little bit on floor. The one area she lacks is the performance factor and really showing it off, but she will get better at that.
“Usually when athletes come in, they're a little bit shy. They're not used to having to perform as openly as we do in college, so I can definitely see that getting better. Of course she's a rock on balance beam and her bars are very good. She definitely has the potential to be a very good all-arounder for us.”
Spicer has even surprised herself.
“It's definitely crazy to think about how I was just in high school last semester and how much of a change there's been,” she said. “I'm not even eighteen — I'm a baby. I don't turn eighteen until June.
“I feel like I've been here for so long, but I've only been here a little more than two months. I've had to adjust quickly, but I love it here. The transition was not too bad, and I had a great support system behind me. I love competing for Florida.”