UF's Stageberg shows resolve after injury


Florida gymnast Randy Stageberg competed in every floor exercise for the Gators this season before sustaining a dislocated shoulder in a practice prior to last Saturday's NCAA Gainesville Regional.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 12, 2013 at 7:48 p.m.

Throughout her career, Randy Stageberg has been the type of student-athlete coaches love.

Facts

2013 NCAA Championships

Who: Semifinal I- Florida, Georgia, LSU, Minnesota, Stanford, Illinois
When: Friday, April 19 at 3 p.m.
Where: New Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles, Calif.

“She never looked at an opportunity like ‘Can I rest?'” Florida head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was always ‘Put me in, put me in,' and that's a coach's dream. I'm really proud of her.”

Stageberg, a senior from Chesapeake, Va., was enjoying her finest year at UF before the injury bug took an untimely bite at practice leading up to last Saturday's NCAA Gainesville Regional.

“She just took off twisting and her shoulder went out,” Faehn said. “Our hearts broke because it was a freak injury.”

Stageberg suffered a dislocated shoulder, a recurrence of an injury she sustained late in 2008 that required surgery.

“This is the first issue that I've had with it since, so I was very fortunate to be so healthy,” Stageberg said. “I spent most of my freshman year just getting back in the swing of gymnastics. It was a challenge, but it made me find that passion for the sport again.

“It's been hard. It was definitely a shock. I've been so healthy for the last four years, so for an injury to happen and to have my season cut short has been challenging, but I've accepted it.”

Stageberg was UF's lead-off performer on the balance beam in every meet this year and also was part of every floor exercise rotation. In addition, she was in the vault lineup several times, setting or tying her collegiate-bests on all three events, highlighted by winning the first beam title of her career against Kentucky and later scoring a collegiate-best-tying 9.90 leading off UF's floor rotation at the Southeastern Conference Championships to help the Gators win their third SEC title in her career.

“SECs was a great meet for me and was an awesome meet to finish on, and it felt great to win another SEC title,” she said. “There are so many positives that I can look back on.”

Stageberg said she drew inspiration from fellow senior and roommate Dali Lemezan, who was a regular in the vault rotation her first two years but tore her ACL at the 2011 NCAA Championships and has only made a few exhibition appearances since.

“Dali is my best friend on the team,” Stageberg said. “We've lived together for three years now, and she has helped me through everything, not just this injury. She works so hard in the gym every day and is an awesome teammate, cheering for people and lifting people's spirits. She's just amazing.”

Stageberg has quickly adapted to her new duties.

“As heartbreaking as it is for Randy and everyone involved because you never want that to happen, especially to a senior, she is just one of the toughest and most team-oriented people,” Faehn said. “She has embraced her new role, and I think she left the arena Saturday night with zero voice because she was screaming so loud for everybody.”

While UF will miss her consistency — Stageberg hit an impressive 40 straight beam routines in her career — she plans on utilizing all her experience and leadership when the top-ranked Gators go for their first NCAA title next weekend in Los Angeles.

“It completely changed my life the first time around, so I have to look at this injury now like something good is going to come out of it,” she said.

“Now I'm going to hopefully be a part of an NCAA championship, just a different part. Everyone has worked so hard, and I don't think we've ever peaked so perfectly as we have this year. If we just go out there and do our job, the title is ours.”

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