Gymnastics claims SEC crown
Published: Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 12:35 a.m.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team claimed its second consecutive Southeastern Conference title Saturday evening in front of 5,395 at the Verizon Arena. It is the ninth overall title for the Gators.
Florida (15-2, 6-1 SEC) used its highest score ever in SEC Championships competition — 198.00 — to take the program's ninth overall crown. Two-time defending NCAA champion Alabama was second at 197.80, followed by LSU (197.70), Georgia (197.325), Auburn (196.55), Arkansas (196.40), Missouri (195.525) and Kentucky (194.60).
As the top-seeded team, Florida opened the meet on vault. The event is usually a strong scoring event, as the Gators entered the meet No. 1 on the event. But steps on landings dinged Florida's score and the team found itself in fourth with its vault total of 49.375 after the first rotation.
If the Gators were disappointed in their vault performance, it didn't show in the next rotation. Florida turned in a solid 49.50 on uneven bars, thanks to three marks of 9.925 or above. Freshman Bridget Sloan, who would claim a share of the SEC all-around title, led UF on bars with her winning total of 9.95.
“What I love is we didn't get upset about that (performance on vault) and they didn't take it down to the next event,” UF coach Rhonda Faehn said. “That's the key to a team that's going to succeed in the postseason.”
LSU led the meet at the midway point at 99.15 while Florida's total of 98.875 moved stood second.
Balance beam was next and the Gators' total of 49.50 shared the meet's highest on the event. Four marks of 9.90 or better were posted by the Gators. Sloan led with a 9.925.
That performance put the Gators in the lead by a slender margins, 148.375 to 148.35, over Alabama heading into the final rotation.
Faehn knew the Gators needed to deliver on their final event to keep the trophy in Gainesville.
“It was down to the wire. I can't say that I love it like that. It was very stressful,” Faehn said.
A big score on floor exercise would win it for the Gators and that is exactly what the team delivered. Its floor total of 49.625 equaled the meet's highest of the event and gave them the margin needed over Alabama who earned the meet's highest vault total of 49.55 on the final rotation.
Sloan shared the SEC all-around title with LSU's Rheagan Courville at 39.75. Sloan is the second consecutive Gator freshman to win the SEC all-around, as Kytra Hunter took the 2012 title. This is the eighth time a Gator has won the SEC all-around title.
Next up, the Gators await the NCAA's announcement Monday at 3 p.m.