Gators gymnasts look to get even with Crimson Tide
Published: Friday, April 18, 2014 at 10:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 18, 2014 at 11:45 p.m.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The Florida Gators have two bits of unfinished business after Friday's semifinal session at the NCAA Gymnastics Championships.
First and foremost, Florida can defend its national championship.
Second, it can finally beat Alabama, the only team to defeat the Gators this season. Alabama beat the Gators in the regular season and again at the SEC Championships.
Florida and Alabama tied for first in the six-team semifinal at Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, posting identical 197.65 scores. Nebraska grabbed the third spot from the evening semifinal. Oklahoma, Georgia and LSU advanced from the afternoon session and will join tonight's Super Six finals field.
The Gators advanced from an evening semifinal field that included fellow national powers Alabama, UCLA and Utah, with the latter two ending their seasons.
“We were excited because we always feel like our team rises to the occasion whenever it's a challenging situation,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said.
Florida started with a score of 49.375 on vault to set the tone, led by Bridget Sloan's 9.925 and Alaina Johnson's 9.9.
The Gators sizzled on the uneven parallel bars. Sloan's 9.95 paced a 49.55 team score, with Mackenzie Caquatto and Kytra Hunter both posting 9.925s and Bridgette Caquatto adding a 9.9.
“Bars is definitely one of our strong events,” Johnson said. “We did a very good job of staying calm and doing our own thing and focused on what we needed to, and if we do that then we're good.”
Florida had a narrow lead at the meet's midpoint, but had trouble on the balance beam. Defending NCAA all-around and beam champion Sloan suffered a rare fall. Sloan's 9.2 didn't count since each team's lowest score on each event is dropped, but UF posted its lowest score of the night at 49.3.
The Gators closed with a 49.425 on floor to catch back up with Alabama, which had overtaken the lead. Sloan, Kytra Hunter and Claire Boyce all scored 9.9.
Johnson scored 39.6 on the night to finish tied for second in the all-around, which was won by Alabama's Kim Jacob.