Dickerson gears for NCAAs

Junior Ashanee Dickerson competes on the floor against LSU at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center on Feb. 10.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 5:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 5:03 p.m.

Florida's Ashanee Dickerson has proven to be the model of consistency — literally.


NCAA Championship

When: April 20-22
Where: The Arena at Gwinnett Center, Duluth, Ga.
Semifinal 1: April 20, noon- UCLA, Oklahoma, Nebraska, LSU, Stanford and Utah
Semifinal 2: April 20, 6 p.m.- top-seeded Florida, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Ohio State and Oregon State
NCAA Super Six: April 21, 4 p.m.- The top three teams from each semifinal determine the national champion.
April 22: Individual competition
Broadcast: ESPN3 will show the NCAA Super Six live and the meet will air tape-delayed on ESPNU on May 2 at 8:30 p.m.

“We keep track of every competition of an athlete's career here, and she is the most consistent athlete we've ever had,” said head coach Rhonda Faehn. “I don't have all the numbers, but every event she's competed in this year — every routine — she has hit, which is amazing. Whether it's a 9.7 with a step or a 9.9 with a stick, it doesn't matter. It means she's really focused every time she gets out there on the equipment.”

For someone who used to watch UF compete in the O'Connell Center as a young girl, the past three years have been one magical ride.

“It's unreal,” said Dickerson. “When I was young and first saw the girls run out of the tunnel, I envisioned a lot of stuff. I just wanted my name to be called out and hear everybody cheering. Just to hear the fans now who cheer for me and to know that there are people who like me out there is awesome. There are even little girls who look up to me now, so it's all just amazing.”

Sort of like watching Dickerson perform.

With her combination of grace and power, this 5-foot-5 Jacksonville native has the ability to mesmerize an audience on any event. But nowhere does Dickerson, a crowd favorite since Day 1, step into her own more than on her favorite event — the floor exercise.

There, the normally reserved and shy Dickerson seems to take on a different persona. The blend of her amazing tumbling skills, grace and power — mixed with some well-timed smiles, side glances and a variety of facial expressions — usually culminates with the crowd on its feet.

“Floor is my favorite event, so I like to have fun with it,” Dickerson said. “The other events are kind of serious to me, so I try and stay focused on those events. When I get to floor, I just let it all out.

“When the meet's at home and it's the last event, it really allows me to play up to the crowd more. It's like the last thing I get to do before the meet's over.”

Dickerson, a two-time, first-team All-SEC selection who was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2010 and went on to become the first Gator gymnast in history to be named Southeast Regional Gymnast of the Year, heads into the 2012 NCAA Championships April 20-22 with 58 event titles and five All-America honors under her belt.

In Florida's last action at the NCAA Regional in Raleigh, N.C., Dickerson won the all-around title with a score of 39.65 that was the highest all-around mark recorded at any of the nation's six regionals and was just .05 off her collegiate-best 39.70 (2010) that ranks No. 5 in UF annals.

Fellow junior All-America Marissa King has noticed a difference in her classmate.

“She's always been a great competitor, but now she just has that shine, she has that glow, she has that presence where we're all like 'She's awesome,' and it shows when she performs,” King said. “But she stays so humble and she's so hungry for success as well. She's a phenomenal athlete, and it's a privilege to have her on the team.

“I've seen her grow from such a tiny little shy mouse to someone who screams, cheers and just has a lot of fun. I think she's learned a lot about life through college gymnastics and being part of the team.”

Dickerson has been close to perfect a number of times in her career, recording seven 9.95s on floor, five on vault and one on bars, while posting a 9.975 on beam that is the school's all-time No. 2 mark.

“I never watch anyone before I compete,” she said. “I'll be in the back of the crowd, doing my routines in my head. Sometimes I just close my eyes and see myself sticking everything and then running over to my teammates.”

Kind of how things usually end up going.

“You can see that she's really enjoying it out there,” Faehn said. “ Ashanee likes to perform, and when she is on, you can just see it in her facial expressions. It really energizes the team because they're having fun watching her having fun, so it's a win-win.”

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