UF gymnastics claims first NCAA title
Published: Saturday, April 20, 2013 at 9:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, April 21, 2013 at 12:51 a.m.
LOS ANGELES — Gators are cold-blooded, and they have thick hides.
Be at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center Monday at 7 p.m. to welcome home your 2013 NCAA Champion Gator Gymnastics team.
Here's the info about Monday's National Championship Celebration.
When: Monday at 7 p.m.
Where: Stephen C. O'Connell Center main arena (gates open at 6 p.m.)
The ones who competed for the Florida gymnastics team showed those characteristics Saturday at Pauley Pavilion, and they also had some bite.
Florida was thick-skinned enough to shake off three falls in its first seven routines and icy enough to keep its focus in the Super Six rounds of the NCAA Championships. The Gators overcame those lapses with a series of big scores to get back into it, and then closed out the school's first championship in the sport with an aggressive finish to win a duel with two-time defending champion Alabama.
Florida scored 197.575 despite counting a fall on balance beam. Trailing Alabama by a margin of .025 going into the final rotation, Florida got scores of 9.9 from Bridget Sloan and Mackenzie Caquatto and a punctuating 9.95 from Alaina Johnson to pull away.
Alabama fell apart on the beam to drop to third place, with Oklahoma finishing second.
"We fought," Sloan said. "This competition just goes to show you that even when you make a mistake if you fight to the end you can have a great outcome."
It was fight, as much as talent, that won the title for UF.
"That's what's great about this team," Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. "What I love about this team is how they rallied and didn't let it affect them."
Had Florida been less resilient, the start of the meet would have been the end of its title hopes. Starting on the balance beam, the Gators had back-to-back falls in the middle of the lineup by Ashanee Dickerson and Kytra Hunter, counting Hunter's 9.325 in a team score of 48.875.
"I knew I'd get myself back together," Hunter said. "What really means the most is where you finish."
That start on beam put UF basically in last place out of the gate, but it looked even worse when Jamie Shisler fell on floor exercise in Florida's first routine.
Florida, however, caught fire after Shisler's fall with five straight scores of 9.9 or better, topped by Hunter's 9.975 for a team score of 49.725 on the event. The Gators carried that momentum over to vault, with four more marks of 9.9 or better on the way to a 49.5 team tally.
Even with that turnaround from the rough start, Florida was still neck-and-neck with Alabama going into the last rotation, pulling out the meet with a 49.475 on bars.