Wang settles in during sophomore campaign
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 22, 2013 at 12:16 a.m.
The second time around for Kiersten Wang has been much better.
No. 23 Kentucky at No. 1 Florida
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Stephen C. O'Connell Center
“My main goal coming back from last year was just to believe in myself and my abilities and work towards making the lineup and contribute whatever way I possibly could to the team,” Wang said. “It started out with the first meet when I hit a pretty good floor routine, and I just kept building confidence from one meet to the other.
“When you go out there and keep getting better and better, it really boosts your confidence.”
Like most freshmen, it took Wang, a sophomore from Monument, Colo., time to adjust to college gymnastics as well as college life in general.
“I had no clue what I was really getting into last year, and it was way different from anything I was used to,” she said.
“The environment was different, and I was a long way from home, so it was just a lot of changes at once. I wasn't very sure of myself, and it definitely showed in my gymnastics.”
This season, Wang has been a regular for top-ranked Florida.
She's competed in the floor exercise, her favorite event, in all seven meets heading into tonight's last Southeastern Conference dual meet against No. 23 Kentucky in the O'Connell Center, leading off Florida's rotation five times.
“I love it,” Wang said. “Some people don't like going first, and it's been new and been different. I'm warmed up and ready to go, and it's just a lot of fun to get out there.”
Wang set a collegiate-best 9.80 mark on the floor in UF's third meet of the year against Missouri and has equaled that mark in each of the last two meets, helping the Gators to wins over two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama and Georgia.
She's also been in UF's vault lineup five times, notching a collegiate-best 9.90 in a Feb. 1 road win over Arkansas. In addition, she has set or equaled her collegiate-bests with a pair of 9.775s in exhibitions on both the uneven bars and balance beam.
“Kiersten is great,” head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “You know, she really has matured and stepped up this year. Last year was a little bit of a struggle for her, especially as a freshman, but also I think she really didn't have the confidence. This year, she's a totally different athlete and I just love it. I love seeing her get out there. She's increased her difficulty.
“I love to see that, when athletes kind of turn the corner and they figure it out, and she really has. She could step in on any event and do well, and she's only going to get better.”
Wang is excited about her expanded role.
“To be contributing, it's almost like an honor,” she said. “It's amazing just because we have so much depth. You work hard for your spot, and everybody knows that. It's a nice reward because you know your hard work has paid off when you make the lineup.”
Wang has plans of being a civil engineer and following a similar path to her father, who works for CH2M Hill but has done work with Bridges for Prosperity, a nonprofit organization.
“He's taken students from Rice University and Colorado School of Mines to Central America over the summer, winter and spring breaks, and they design and build bridges that are needed down there and get the community involved,” she said. “After my senior year of high school, I went with him to Nicaragua and did some of the surveying aspect and really liked it. This summer, I have an internship with them, so I'm looking forward to it.”
Tonight's meet between the Gators (6-1, 5-1) and Wildcats (5-3-1, 3-2-1) begins at 7 p.m.