Top-ranked UF gymnastics faces Utah in regular-season finale


Published: Friday, March 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 16, 2012 at 9:18 a.m.

The No. 1 Florida gymnastics team closes out the regular season with a dual meet against No. 7 Utah tonight at 7 in the O'Connell Center.

Facts

UF gymnastics

Who: No. 7 Utah (7-2) vs. No. 1 Florida (10-1)
Where: O'Connell Center
When: 7 tonight

It will be Senior Night for the Gators, who will be honoring Nicole Ellis, Amy Ferguson and Elizabeth Mahlich in a post-meet ceremony. The senior trio has been part of two NCAA Regional Championship squads as well as the 2010 SEC Championship team.

“This year I really challenged them, and they have become leaders,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It's going to be a lot of fun, and it's going to be great to be able to recognize them for how well they have represented the University of Florida over their four years here.”

The Gators (10-1, 5-1 SEC) come into tonight's meet following a week off from competition that Faehn felt came along at just the right time.

“Last week we had off, which I think was really great for our athletes physically of course,” she said. “But mentally it gave them a little bit of a breather and a chance for us to step back a little bit and work on fine tuning some things.”

In their last action, the Gators picked up a come-from-behind, 196.95-196.825 road win, over No. 6 Nebraska on March 4.

The Utes (7-2, 3-1 Pac-12), one of five teams to be ranked No. 1 at some point this season, are one of the most tradition-laden programs in the nation. They are coming off a 197.60-197.45 home loss to the same Cornhuskers last Friday that ended a seven-meet winning streak.

This marks the eighth straight season Florida and Utah have met in regular-season action. The Gators have won five of the previous seven, but the two programs are tied at 7-all overall (including postseason) since 2005.

“It's going to be a great competition,” Faehn said. “They're a very strong team, and we're looking forward to them coming here.

"It's our Senior Night, and we're going to be honoring three seniors who have been tremendous for our program. Of course they're going to be stepping out there and competing for the last time in the O'Connell Center, so I'm sure it's going to be a little bit emotional for them, but exciting at the same time.”

Student coach Kailey Tissue, a 2009 team member, also will be honored.

This will be UF's last meet before the all-important postseason, which begins next Saturday with the 2012 SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga.

NCAA Regionals are April 7 and the NCAA Championships are April 22-24 in Duluth, Ga.

“We're focusing on the execution,” Faehn said. “The handstands, the stuck landings, the height and distance on the vault — just the little things.”

Fans who donate two children's books (new/used in good condition) or $5 worth of school supplies will receive a 2-for-1 admission ticket. Donations should be brought to Gate 1 of the O'Connell Center. They will benefit the Shands Pediatrics Clinics and Alachua County elementary and middle schools.

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