UF gymnastics opens with dominant win
Published: Friday, January 4, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 5, 2013 at 1:05 a.m.
As a six-time and current member of the U. S. Senior National team, Florida freshman Bridget Sloan has performed on some of the biggest international stages in the world.
But Friday night before an enthusiastic O'Connell Center crowd of 3,765, Sloan, the 2009 World all-around champion, got her first taste of college gymnastics.
“It was a shock; I had no idea what it was going to be like to be on the floor,” Sloan said. “When you're sitting in the stands, it looks like so much fun, but when you're out there, it is a blast. I've never had that much fun at a meet. I really enjoyed every minute of it.
“Having that team behind you is just awesome, and the crowd was just amazing.”
In her first event in a Florida leotard, Sloan shared the vault title with senior Ashanee Dickerson, each with a winning score of 9.925, and the third-ranked Gators (1-0) went on to post an easy 196.575-190.550 dual-meet win over visiting Ball State (0-1) in the season opener for both squads.
Sloan went on to add a pair of 9.8s on the uneven bars and balance beam before joining a few of her teammates in leading an Orange and Blue cheer prior to UF's final rotation (floor exercise), the lone event in which she did not participate on the night.
“I didn't even look at the score,” UF head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “I was more concerned with how Bridget would do. I know she's incredibly talented and she has all this competitive experience, but this is a completely new environment.”
Florida's score tied for the third-highest, season-opening team mark in program history despite the fact Faehn only used one of her stars, Dickerson, in all four events, where she won her 14th career all-around title with a winning score of 38.90. That, coupled with her share of the vault title, gives Dickerson 60 career titles.
In addition, sophomore Kytra Hunter, who won two individual NCAA titles (vault, all-around) as a true freshman as well as the Honda Award as the nation's top gymnast, picked up where she left off, winning the uneven bars and floor exercise titles with matching 9.90s.
“It means a lot to me,” Hunter said. “Every year is a new year, and our bodies are different. I feel like we are the underdogs this year and there are a lot of people rooting for us. As a team, we all stay humble and we want that win at NCAAs, and so we're going to do whatever it takes. Tonight, what it took was getting out there and performing to the best of our abilities with a large crowd and I thought we did an excellent job.”
Junior Mackenzie Caquatto made it a clean sweep for the Gators, taking home the beam crown with a winning score of 9.875.
Ball State's Brittney Emmons, a senior from Pace, Fla., led the Cardinals with a second-place finish in the all-around competition with a score of 38.40.
“I thought it was great, especially for the first competition,” Faehn said. “We achieved a lot of the goals we were looking to achieve, knowing that we weren't really going to be 100 percent prepared or being super sharp. It was just a matter of getting out there, getting a lot of new faces out there, new routines and just getting our feet wet, so to speak. I was really pleased with how they did and the energy that they had tonight.”
Next up, UF travels to LSU for its first SEC dual meet of the season Friday in Baton Rouge.