UF gymnastics sets school record on Senior Night
Published: Friday, March 1, 2013 at 11:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 12:24 a.m.
At practice this week, Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn and her staff urged the second-ranked Gators to dig deep as the team hits March and begins to wind down toward the all-important postseason.
“You know, as a coaching staff, we really challenged our team after our last meet,” Faehn said. “That was not what they are capable of. This was now go time, and they needed to step up.”
The Gators, who slipped from the No. 1 spot nationally to No. 2 this week following last week's close win over Kentucky, got a winning score of 9.975 in every event to decidedly defeat No. 14 Minnesota, 198.425-197.175, setting a school-record with their team score that was two-tenths of a point better than the existing mark of 198.225 set against UCLA in 2004 as an O'Connell Center crowd of 3,843 looked on.
En route, UF (8-1, 6-1 SEC) set all-time event marks in the balance beam (49.60) and floor exercise (49.70) and notched an uneven bars score of 49.675 that is tied for the No. 2 school mark.
“It was awesome,” Faehn said. “It was really incredible.”
In addition, sophomore Kytra Hunter won the all-around title with a winning 39.80 score that tied Kristen Guise's 1996 school-record mark, with freshman Bridget Sloan right on her heels with a 39.750 that is tied for No. 3 all-time. Both were collegiate-bests.
All that, and a host of other collegiate-best marks made for a great Senior Night as UF honored the foursome of Ashanee Dickerson, Marissa King, Randy Stageberg and Dali Lemezan.
“It was an amazing night,” said Dickerson, who tied for second on the vault (9.925) and the floor (9.95) and was third in the all-around (39.550) behind Hunter and Sloan.
“It was a great night to have as your last dual meet as a senior, breaking the school record for the highest team total.”
Hunter started things out with a winning 9.975 on the vault, tying her collegiate best for the fifth time in the last 11 meets.
Junior Mackenzie Caquatto followed with a 9.975 to win the bars, Sloan won the beam with a collegiate-best 9.975, and King capped the night by winning the floor with a 9.975 that tied her collegiate best.
“It was definitely a great night,” Hunter said. “It was emotional at the end. It's really hard to see the seniors go, but we still have a long road ahead of us, and we want to be that top team at NCAAs.”
Making it all the sweeter for UF's senior quartet was that all four of them competed together for the first time at home all season in their final home regular-season meet.
While Dickerson, King and Stageberg have been regulars in the lineup throughout their careers, Lemezan has been limited the past two seasons after tearing her ACL at the 2011 NCAA Championships.
She competed on the vault Friday for just the second time all season — and first at home — in an exhibition performance.
Minnesota's team score, meanwhile, was a season-high.
The Golden Gophers (12-3, 4-1 Big Ten) were led by freshman Lindsay Mable and sophomore Cierra Tomson, the latter from Jacksonville, who were fourth and fifth, respectively, in the all-around.
But this night belonged to the Gators.
“It was wonderful,” Faehn said. “I was really happy to see our whole team, not just the senior class, perform well.
“I told the athletes before in the meeting that we're honoring the seniors, but that we have a lot more to accomplish. We're going to respect and honor what they've done, but we have a lot more to do.”
UF has one remaining dual meet at Utah March 16 before heading to the SEC Championships in Little Rock, Ark., March 23.
The Gators will return to the O'Dome on April 6 as one of six hosts for NCAA Regionals.