Gators finish strong to win first SEC meet

Florida coach Rhonda Faehn congratulates Kytra Hunter after her vault against the Minnesota Gophers on March 1. The score for the Gators was a school record.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer / File
Published: Friday, January 17, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 18, 2014 at 12:03 a.m.

AUBURN, Ala. — The No. 4 Florida gymnastics team opened the Southeastern Conference season with a win at No. 18 Auburn in front of an Auburn Arena crowd of 5,588.

The defending NCAA and SEC champions posted a 197.075 and the Tigers earned a total of 196.225.

The Gators trailed by 0.275 following the opening rotation after Auburn posted the nation’s fourth highest vault total of 49.40. That lead evaporated after the Gators’ nearly matched that vault total with their 49.375, giving Florida a 0.225 advantage at the midway point.

Florida upped its season-floor exercise best to 49.15 on the next rotation. The nation’s season-high balance beam total of 49.425 on Florida’s final event pushed the Gators to the win.

“It was another great step as we take this season it one meet at a time,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was a great improvement from our UCLA competition and to finish the way we did on balance beam was exceptional. They really fed off of each other and competed aggressively.

“I loved seeing that — especially when we were competing on the road. It was challenging — two road meets is very hard. This is the first time we’ve done that since my first season at Florida.”

Sophomore All-American Bridget Sloan collected her seventh all-around title of her collegiate career with her total of 39.70 for UF. Sloan also equaled her collegiate vault best of 9.95 to share that event title. She won bars (9.925) and shared the floor exercise win with teammate Kytra Hunter and Auburn’s Bri Guy at 9.90.

Senior Mackenzie Caquatto anchored Florida’s beam set with a Gator season-best 9.95. It was her seventh beam win of her career.

Friday’s shared title was the 14th floor win for Hunter. Two meets into her junior campaign and Hunter has upped her collegiate events titles total to 42, which stands 10th all-time among the Gators.

Florida improved to 2-0 overall, while Auburn is now 1-1.

“I feel like they earned every score they got tonight and didn’t let anything affect them that they couldn’t control,” Faehn said. “Actually there are areas that we are excited to get back into the gym and have a full week to train as we will be back home in the O’Dome. It was such a fast turnaround from UCLA. We only had two days to train this week. We are looking forward to getting back home and getting a full week in.”

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