No. 1 UF gymnastics put No. 23 Wildcats away late
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
For top-ranked Florida, being good on three out of four events was good enough Friday when the Gators topped No. 23 Kentucky 196.975-196.075 before an O'Connell Center crowd of 4,321.
With the win in the final Southeastern Conference dual meet of the season for both squads, UF improved to 7-1, 6-1 while the Wildcats slipped to 5-4-1, 3-3-1.
“The first two events were incredible, and the last event was really wonderful,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “Beam was very uncharacteristic. We're a very strong beam team.”
The Gators started out gangbusters on their first two events, posting a team mark of 49.550 on the vault that was their second-best of the season and tied for the fifth-highest in program history.
Four athletes — freshman Bridget Sloan, sophomore Kytra Hunter, junior Mackenzie Caquatto and senior Randy Stageberg — set or tied their collegiate bests, topped by Hunter's winning 9.975 that led a 1-2-3 UF sweep.
It marked the fourth time in her young career Hunter has flirted with perfection on the vault, and Faehn wasn't sure Hunter got what she deserved.
“Kytra's vault to me, that was a 10,” Faehn said. “I haven't seen anything better. I've seen 10s that weren't as good. That was amazing.”
The momentum carried over to the bars, where Sloan (9.975) won and Hunter (9.95) finished second, both with collegiate bests, and led another 1-2-3 Gator sweep with freshman Bianca Dancose-Giambattisto (9.90) third en route to a solid 49.475 team mark.
UF stumbled, however, on the balance beam and had to count a fall en route to a season-low team score of 48.525. There were positives, though, as Stageberg and fellow senior Ashanee Dickerson shared the event title with matching 9.875s, marking the first career win for Stageberg.
To their credit, the Gators put the disappointment behind them and finished off the meet in grand style on the floor exercise with a team mark of 49.425, their second best of the year, while again recording another 1-2-3 sweep led by senior Marissa King's winning 9.95 that tied her season high.
“It was a phenomenal experience, not only competing in front of the Gator Nation, but my parents are here from England and that was really special,” King said. “It was their first collegiate meet.”
Dickerson (9.90) was second and sophomore Kiersten Wang posted a collegiate best 9.875 that tied Stageberg, whose mark was a season high, for third. In addition, sophomore Jamie Shisler led off the floor for UF and set a collegiate best with a 9.825.
“We just came back and fought hard on the floor and let the beam go behind us,” Dickerson said. “It shows that we are fighters and we can fight through anything.”
For the first time since February 2011, UF did not enter an athlete in the all-around competition.
The only person entered was Kentucky junior Audrey Harrison, who posted a 39.225 mark to pick up the Wildcats' only win of the night. It was her fourth consecutive all-around title.
Freshman Bridgette Caquatto, who had shoulder surgery last summer and UF coaches had considered redshirting, made her first official lineup appearance (non-exhibition) of the year, competing on both the uneven bars and floor.
With older sister Mackenzie also competing, it marked the first time sisters had competed for UF in the same meet since April 6, 1984, when Lynn and Karen McDonnell competed at the NCAA Championships.
“It was a very challenging decision, and as a coaching staff we all decided that she needs the experience,” Faehn said. “She is capable of being a 9.9 on two events minimum, so we wanted to see this meet and the next two meets what she's going to do.”
UF returns to the O'Dome to host Minnesota of the Big Ten on Friday night at 7 before closing out the regular season with a road meet at Utah on March 16.