No.1 Gator gymnasts headed to Raleigh for NCAA Regional

Four Gator gymnasts named All-SEC


Junior Marissa King was selected to the All-SEC team for the third consecutive season.

Matt Stamey/ Staff photographer/ FILE
Published: Monday, March 26, 2012 at 11:08 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 26, 2012 at 11:08 p.m.

The No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team will travel to Raleigh, N.C., to compete as the top seed for the NCAA Regional on Saturday, April 7. Start time is set for 4 p.m. at North Carolina State's Reynolds Coliseum. The NCAA Gymnastics Committee announced the fields for each of the six 2012 NCAA Region Championships sites Monday.

The top two teams and the top two all-around competitors (who are not on an advancing team) from each region site advances to the NCAA Championships, set for April 20-22 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga. Florida competed at The Arena at Gwinnett Center last Saturday, claiming the program's eighth Southeastern Conference team title.

Last year, UF used a runner-up finish at the NCAA North Central Region in Denver, Colo., to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 29th time in the 30-year history of the meet. The Gators took seventh overall in the NCAA Championships.

No.12 Ohio State and No. 13 Penn State are the other seeded teams at the Raleigh Regional. No. 20 NC State, No. 26 Kent State and No. 31 North Carolina round out the field for the regional site. NC State is the only team in the field UF has met in 2012 regular season action, as the Gators opened the campaign with a 196.025-194.675 dual meet win in Raleigh.

Florida will open regional competition on the uneven bars.

The top 18 teams nationally, based on regional qualifying score (RQS), were paired into the six regions (three per region). Each region site contains one team each from the nation's No. 1-6, No. 7-12, and No. 13-18 ranking positions. The final three spots in each regional were filled from teams ranked 19-36 by RQS. The committee tried to keep those teams within their own region as much as possible.

In addition five all-around competitors (who are not on a qualifying team) and one individual specialist per event advance to each of the six regions. The all-around competitors and event specialists came from within the region. Monica Mesalles Sallares of Bridgeport will be paired with the Gators for regional competition.

All-SEC: Four University of Florida gymnasts appear on 2012 All-Southeastern Conference teams, the league office announced today. The Gators' All-SEC honorees are freshman Kytra Hunter, sophomores Mackenzie Caquatto and Alaina Johnson and junior Marissa King.

The All-SEC first team is made up of the top three all-arounders and each event champion from the SEC Championships. The second team is made up of the No. 4-6 all-around finishers and event runner-ups.

In Saturday's SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga., the Gators collected four titles, taking the team win at 197.15 and earning three individual event crowns. Hunter claimed the all-around (39.625) and vault (9.975) titles to place her on the All-SEC first team. She is the first Gator to win the league all-around title since Kristen Guise in 1995 and the first Gator freshman to claim the honor since Elfi Schlegel in 1983. The last freshman to take the SEC all-around win was Georgia's Katie Heenan in 2005. Hunter's vault mark is a collegiate-best and makes her the sixth Gator to earn the nearly perfect mark on the event.

As the Gators' final competitor of the meet, Johnson completed the Gators' championship performance with her winning mark of 9.925 on the uneven bars. The win is her fifth of the season on the event and 11th of her career. This is her second consecutive appearance on the All-SEC first team.

Caquatto and King both appear on the All-SEC second team. King's season-best vault mark of 9.925 shared second overall at the SEC meet. King was also fourth in the all-around at 39.425. This is King's third consecutive year on the All-SEC second team. Caquatto shared second on the uneven bars at 9.90 to earn her spot on the All-SEC team. She has posted a 9.90 or above on the event five times this season.

In Saturday's post-meet awards ceremony, Hunter was named the SEC Freshman of the Year. She is the sixth Gator to earn the honor and it is the third consecutive year the award went to a Florida gymnast (Hunter/2012, Johnson/2011, Ashanée Dickerson/2010, Amanda Castillo/2007, Orley Szmuch/2002 and Betsy Hamm/1998). Hunter is a five-time all-around winner and leads Florida with 19 event titles in 2012. She is also part of the 2012 SEC All-Freshman Team.

Florida's Rhonda Faehn shared the SEC Coach of the Year honor with Auburn's Jeff Graba. It is the fifth such honor for Faehn since the 2006 season and her third consecutive. Saturday's team title is the third for Faehn in her 10 seasons as the head of the Gator program.

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