UF gymnastics wins SEC


Florida gymnasts celebrate winning the SEC Gymnastics Championships, Saturday, March 24, 2012, in Duluth, Ga. (The Associated Press)

Published: Friday, March 23, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 at 11:26 p.m.

DULUTH, Ga. — The SEC Championship is coming back to Gainesville.

No. 1 Florida won its eighth SEC Championship Saturday night after besting the other six teams with a score of 197.15.

On Saturday night in the Arena at Gwinnett Center, the meet came down to the last event. Both Alabama and Georgia had byes in the last rotation, so Florida knew which team it had to beat to get first. Before Florida got its last turn, Alabama had a 196.775 to 196.575 lead over Georgia.

While Florida earned its second-highest vault score of the season to launch it to first place temporarily, the meet still came down to how well Florida performed on the bars. And perform the Gators did.

“Bars is again one of our better events,” said UF coach Rhonda Faehn. “I just felt confident that if we went out there and hit, we would do a great job. I liked how they remained calm and didn’t hold back. I’m just really proud that even though it was a slow start, they didn’t give up, and they didn’t get down on themselves. They continued to fight.”

With the meet was close throughout between Florida, Alabama and Georgia, each held first place at one time or another.

After all three teams completed three rotations, however, it was the Gators who took the overall lead in the meet. Florida had a 147.775, with Alabama in second with a 147.45 and Georgia in third with a 147.725.

Alabama stayed in second to end the meet with a score of 196.775. Georgia was third with a 196.575.

Earlier in the season, Florida came to Tuscaloosa and fell to the Tide 197.725 to 196.9. That loss has been the only blemish on Florida’s record this season. This is Florida's second SEC title in the past three years and third since 2007.

Faehn said the team didn’t know the scores going into the final rotation, and the coaches kept the team in the locker room until the last possible second for the final event.

“Our conference is so strong, and the scores were so close, I didn’t even know Alabama was the team to beat,” she said. “I thought everyone was in there. We were looking for our ladies to hit clean sets. And when we finished, I even asked, ‘Did we win?’”

Freshman Kytra Hunter won the all-around title for the meet. She’s the first Gator to win the all-around since 1995 and the first UF freshman to win it since 1983. Her 9.975 on vault is a collegiate best. She is the sixth different Gator to earn the nearly perfect mark. Hunter also won the SEC Gymnastics Freshman of the Year award.

“It’s an honor, but I’m not going to keep it in my head,” Hunter said. “I just am another gymnast, and I need to still work hard like everyone else.”

Regionals will be April 7, and the NCAA Championship will begin April 19. The NCAA championship meet will be held in the same arena in Duluth.

“I think it’s an incredible experience for our athletes because our entire conference getting a jump start on the entire country being in the actual arena, on the podium set up, so it helps them visually,” Faehn said. “We’ve been on the equipment. We’ve already experienced a whole competition here.”

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