UF gymnasts shine in Senior Night win over West Virginia

Florida junior Kytra Hunter earned a 10 for her floor exercise during the Gators' 198.325-194.925 win over West Virginia at the O'Connell Center on Friday.

Matt Stamey / Staff photographer
Published: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 11:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 7, 2014 at 11:57 p.m.

All Senior Nights should be as good as the one the second-ranked Florida gymnastics team enjoyed Friday night.

Senior All-American Alaina Johnson set or tied her collegiate-best mark on every single event en route to recording a school-record all-around winning score of 39.825, and fellow senior All-American Mackenzie Caquatto set a collegiate-best all-around mark with a 39.625 in posting a runner-up all-around finish to Johnson as the Gators cruised to a 198.325-194.925 win over West Virginia before an O'Connell Center crowd of 4,240.

In addition, UF's other senior, Lauren Rose, posted a collegiate-best mark of 9.875 in performing her exhibition vault, leaving the Gators' senior trio collectively on cloud nine.

“We are all roommates, and we get along like sisters,” Johnson said. “We all went out there and had a blast tonight.”

Junior All-American Kytra Hunter capped off the evening by posting another 10 on floor, her third on the event this year and fifth 10 of the season — one at each of Florida's five home meets.

“The seniors have had a huge impact on us, and they're really close to us,” Hunter said. “It felt good to have that last meet in the O'Dome for them and have a great performance.”

Johnson was simply on fire, scoring a 9.95 to win the vault and a 9.975 to win the uneven bars, then recording 9.95s on both balance beam and floor to finish second on both events.

“I told her (Johnson) at the very beginning of the year just what potential she had,” coach Rhonda Faehn said. “She's just been so limited by injuries. She is capable of this every time she steps out on the floor.”

Caquatto, who has also battled injuries throughout her career, enjoyed her best meet of the year as well.

“This was an incredible Senior Night,” she said. “I just really tried to soak it all in and enjoy every event, every step of the way with my teammates and with my family being here.”

Johnson echoed those feelings.

“I told myself right before the competition started that I was going to have the time of my life and go out there and have fun, because that's when I do my best,” she said. “The results showed.”

Sophomore All-American Bridget Sloan, who had competed in every event through the first eight meets, got a break and only competed on the bars and beam for the Gators, tying Caquatto for second on bars behind Johnson with a 9.95 and then winning the beam title with a 9.975.

“I think tonight was probably one of the best times to rest me,” Sloan said. “It's at the very end of the season, so I'll be fresh for Missouri (UF's last regular-season meet next Friday), for SECs, regionals and NCAAs. Obviously, postseason is the most important, but for the regular season it's all about the strategy of resting when necessary.”

Considering Sloan did not compete in two events and there were a few other lineup tweaks, Florida's team score, which is the third-highest in program history, is even more impressive.

The Gators opened with a 49.40 on vault, then posted back-to-back, season-high team marks of 49.625 on the bars and beam before closing things out with a solid 49.675 on floor that was their second-best of the year.

“They just really, from top to bottom, put it together,” Faehn said. “There was so much consistency on all four events. It was very well-balanced, but there were still areas that we can improve upon. That's the exciting thing.”

UF's average attendance at home this year was 7,366, breaking the previous mark of 6,455 set in 1989.

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