WRUF Profiles

Christen Westphal: No Fear, No regrets

By on October 31st, 2013

Bonnie Mott / WRUF

Christen Westphal

Florida Soccer defender Christen Westphal left her hometown of Brecksville, Ohio knowing she was about to make one of the best decisions of her life – becoming a Florida Gator. The moment she visited the University of Florida she knew she was meant to be a part of Gator Nation.

“After talking with Becky (Burleigh) and walking around the campus, I knew I really liked the program and the coaches. Basically, it was the atmosphere and a gut feeling,” said Westphal. “I just knew that I was meant to be here.”

Westphal now a sophomore, said the desire to compete on the field was instilled not long after birth. In fact, sports have always played a prominent role in the Westphal family. Her father David, played basketball and baseball at Washington and Jefferson College and her mother Kathy was a professional competitive dancer for 18 years.

Westphal said she knew she was destined to follow her parent’s footsteps, and even though her father lives in Ohio, he never misses a single game.

“Last year at the SEC tournament my dad surprised me by making the 15 hour trip to Orange Beach, Alabama arriving just before our first match,” said Westphal. “It was such a special moment for me, definitely a moment that I will never forget.”

Westphal’s successful freshman season in 2012 included winning an SEC Tournament, appearing in every match at center back, leading Florida’s field players by averaging 87.2 minutes per match, being named to the All-SEC Freshman Team, Soccer All-Freshman second team, and a member of the SEC First- Year Academic Honor Roll.

Living with “no fear, no regrets” Westphal said she never doubted her passion and determination to excel and succeed both on and off the field.

For her sophomore season, Westphal is driven to continue grinding on the field and accomplishing her dreams.

“My goal for this season is to just continue to get better and work on things that I’ve struggled on this past year, said Westphal.

With two more years of collegiate play, she has plenty of time to keep making her mark. For now, Westphal is working on a Biology degree, and hopeful to one day play professional soccer or attend medical school to become a pharmacist.

Westphal and the Gators pack their bags and head to Orange Beach, Alabama for another SEC Tournament Nov. 4-10 and Westphal has high hopes of bringing home another SEC Title.

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Gators Swimmer Brad deBorde: Rising from obscurity, a champion is born

By on October 25th, 2013


Brad deBorde

Gator senior swimmer Brad deBorde got his start in the water because he was hot.

“I would be coming from soccer practice and it was so hot that I would just get into the water. The coaches saw me and were like, ‘your brother is trying out; do you want to try out, too?’ It was kind of natural,” deBorde said.

Though his start as a swimmer was a natural process, his journey to the top of collegiate swimming was far from natural.

Brad deBorde, a 14-time All-American, 2012 SEC champion in the 50 freestyle, and vital member of the men’s team that took the SEC title this past February, wasn’t a touted recruit coming out of high school.

Unlike many of his fellow swimmers, he wasn’t pursued by numerous colleges.

As fate would have it however, on the day he won the Florida state title in the 200 freestyle as a high school senior, Florida head coach Gregg Troy caught glimpse of him and saw he had found a future star.

“When he [Coach Troy] saw me win states, he called me the next day and spoke a lot to me about having potential,” said deBorde.

The phone call changed deBorde’s life, as he had never thought he would receive the attention of one of the best swimming coaches and programs in the nation.

“It meant a lot that he was there and even with how little knowledge I had back then about swimming, I had heard about him and obviously about Ryan’s [Lochte] accomplishments and about the famous coaching staff here,” deBorde admitted.

Despite a positive high school career, deBorde’s arrival on the Florida campus represented an awakening of sorts.

Things were different, tougher.

“From my high school experience, I really didn’t have any guys to push me or train with. And then when I came here, there would be people doing my best times in practice; seeing that just expanded my horizons in a way that I was able to learn more about myself. I realized that the things you think are impossible can be achieved,” he said. “I’ve learned how to push yourself beyond limits. Because swimming is based on a clock which is like an impartial judge, you really know where you are at all times. In training you learn your limits, what you can do, and then you learn to exceed those.”

Exceeding his limits is not a foreign concept for Brad.

As an industrial and systems engineering major, he constantly has to carefully plan out each day to keep things in check and maintain his excellent performance in the classroom and the pool as an SEC Academic Honor Roll Selection.

“It’s definitely a practice of being a master at time management. My sophomore year I was living on like four hours of sleep and it was just unhealthy. You just have to learn how to prioritize things. When I’m at swimming, I’m 100% focused on swimming and then as soon as I’m done with that I know I have to refuel and then get to do homework. I haven’t really used the tutoring services here the last couple of years because they don’t really offer them for engineering majors, so pretty much during the week I’m either doing homework or training, and that’s fine with me; I chose this lifestyle.” he continued.

Despite seemingly having it all under control winning titles and getting A’s, Brad is aware that success is a very relative thing and it should never be taken lightly.

With his feet firmly on the ground, he is thankful to be able to fulfill a dream he never realized he had.

“Initially, I wasn’t sold on being able to swim in college; I never thought I’d be fast enough, really. So coming here meant a lot. Growing up in Florida I had heard how fast the Gators were all the time so being able to participate and be a big part of that was a small dream that I didn’t realize I had, but it was a dream that I could achieve; that was pretty neat,” he said.

As the dream became a reality, the self-described scrawny kid from high school gained almost 40 pounds in muscle weight and realized his presence on the team mattered.

And for him, this is perhaps still his biggest achievement to date.

“I never thought that I could do anything for this team. Now that I realize my role, I’m more confident of what I can do and I’m able to speak to everyone about that,” he said. “Knowing that I have a voice and that someone will listen is probably the biggest change for me.”

And well,that is a pretty good change to go through.

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Outside the Posts with UF Lacrosse’s Mary-Sean Wilcox

By on October 23rd, 2013

Zak Dahlheimer / WRUF

Mary-Sean Wilcox

Lacrosse has been a mainstay in UF goalkeeper Mary-Sean Wilcox’s life ever since the sophomore was just three years old. Growing up outside of Baltimore in Lutherville, MD, lacrosse is a rite of passage for many kids in the area.

“I’d have to say probably the first time I picked up a stick was when I was 3 years old,” said Wilcox, “Growing up in Baltimore, it’s a part of the lifestyle there. Everyone just loves lacrosse. It’s very competitive there so people start playing very young.”

Wilcox played for Notre Dame Prep, where she helped her team to a state championship runner-up finish, a semifinal appearance, and a No. 2 ranking in the 2011 Maryland Preseason Poll. She was also named a top-25 goalkeeper by ESPNHS.

“It’s really competitive for the MIAA (Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association),” said Wilcox, “We’re all still playing against players in college, like University of Maryland’s Taylor Cummings. It was great competition.”

When it was time to pick a college, Wilcox chose Florida over Penn State and Maryland.

“Growing up I knew I wanted to play lacrosse in college. I always knew I wanted to play lacrosse in Florida, even before they (UF) had a program,” Wilcox said. “When they created their program, I was really excited.”

Wilcox made 11 appearances in over 176 minutes in goal for the Gators her freshman season. She recorded 21 saves, allowed just 16 goals, held a 5.44 goals-against average, and a .568 save percentage. Wilcox was helped by head coach Amanda O’Leary’s defensive background.

“She (coach Amanda O’Leary) really understands the game so well and knows what to do in almost every single situation,” said Wilcox, ”Her being one of the more defensive coaches, it’s been really nice getting that individual time with her.”

Wilcox and fellow goalkeeper Cara Canington have been training vigorously in the offseason in preparation to defend the net for the Gators in 2014.

“We always work very hard and we work well together too,” said Wilcox, “We know how to help each other out. We’re just trying to make each other better.”

After going 18-3 in 2013 and losing a majority of the founding class, Wilcox has high expectations both for herself and the team moving towards the 2014 season.

“I would say teamwise to stay competitive as we are, keep working out, and keep pushing through and working as hard as we can. Just from losing the initial class, everyone’s expectations are very low. I don’t think that’s the case. I think we’re going to be very good,” said Wilcox.

With hard work, perseverance, and dedication, Wilcox and the Gators will look to achieve more success in the 2014 season.

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Gator Golfer A.J. Crouch: Chipping Away For Success

By on October 19th, 2013

Yancey Cook / WRUF

A.J. Crouch

The University of Florida Men’s Golf team is in full swing for the Fall season. After losing four seniors from last year that helped carry the team to a 12th place finish at the NCAA Championships, the Gators are looking to rebound with a very young, but talented, team. The key to success for the Gators is having the young guys step up and mature for the Spring season. That’s exactly what Sophomore A.J. Crouch hopes to do.

Crouch has had a lot of individual success to already in his career. His senior year of high school he won the St. Augustine Amateur Championship against 70 other amateur golfers. He also traveled around the nation to participate in junior golf tournaments.

“In the summer, when I wasn’t in school, I traveled around the country to different tournaments. I was ranked as high as 15th in the country after my senior year,” said Crouch.

Crouch hopes his team his team success at Bolles High School in Jacksonville, FL, will translate into team success for the Gators.

“We (Bolles) had been to the state championship every year since my freshmen year and finally we got it done. I came in third individually at state my senior year,” said Crouch.

Although Crouch hasn’t qualified to go to any of the tournaments yet this season, he believes he can pull out of this slump and show the potential he’s showed flashes of in his young career.

“I’ve been struggling so far this season. In the Spring I want to become an SEC All-American and if I turn it on, I have no doubt I can accomplish that,” said Crouch. “My career goals here at the University of Florida are to become an NCAA All-American as well as bring a SEC and National title back to Gainesville.”

After college, Crouch hopes to achieve his dream of playing professionally.

“I’ve always envisioned myself playing on the PGA Tour. I know that I have the skill set and athletic ability to do so. As long as I keep my head on straight and keep working hard, then it’s going to happen,” Crouch said.

Even if the Tour doesn’t work out for A.J. he’s happy knowing he’s getting a quality education from the University of Florida while majoring in Economics. Although he’s not one-hundred percent sure Economics would be his chosen route, he feels very comfortable with his “Plan B” and said, “What could be better than a degree from the University of Florida?”

The Gators next tournament, the Kiawah Invitational, will be October 27-29 in Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Crouch is hoping to join the team for the first time this year and begin chipping away at his dreams.

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Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez: The Man of Madrid

By on October 9th, 2013

Logan J McGuire / WRUF

Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez

Just a way to stay healthy, that’s all swimming was for six-year-old Eduardo Solaeche-Gomez when he picked up the sport with his brother. It was a way for them to motivate each other. And after 13 years and a trip across the Atlantic Ocean it seems to have worked.

Solaeche-Gomez started competing only one year after he began training – a race he still remembers.

“I was probably seven years old, and it was the 25 (meter) breast stroke. I remember that I was really nervous and I missed the first start because someone made a noise and I made a false start, but at that point they let us have two so I got back in and raced,” said the UF Junior.

He would go on to win that race, the first of many. But it wouldn’t be until high school that Solaeche-Gomez noticed his potential when he won his first junior national title in the 400-meter individual medley (IM) by, as he recalled, about five seconds – practically an eternity in the pool. From then on, swimming became his main focus.

Now a Gator and four-time All-American swimming 7,000 to 12,000 yards a day, this has become an identity for him.

“Swimming is my life,” he said. “We train a lot…If you don’t really like it you wouldn’t be doing this.”

Originally from Madrid, Spain, the swimming culture there is much more intimate.

“We’re more close to each other I would say. So for example the relation I had with my coach was almost the same as I have with my father,” he said.

A relationship he has since lost after coming to Florida because his coach from Spain no longer talks to him.

He chose Florida because it has always been a well-known school around the world for IM and middle distance events – Solaeche-Gomez’s forte – as well as being able to swim under a renowned coaching staff and the chance to train with a swimmer like Ryan Lochte.

Coming off eye surgery last year – the seventh or ninth in his life  – from an old injury he sustained as a child when his brother hit him in his right eye with a rock that almost cost him his eye, Solaeche-Gomez was feeling down after last season. Then his moral would take another blow.

Solaeche-Gomez was snubbed from the Spanish national team this summer and therefore not allowed to compete in the 2013 FINA World Championships in Barcelona. It wasn’t something he or UF head swim coach Gregg Troy, took lightly.

Troy told him the best thing he could do to let the Spanish national team know he was a good swimmer was to break a national record. The 200-meter IM, his favorite swim, was his goal.

“I feel really strong in that event,” he said. “You have to sprint all the time… It’s not as long as the 400 (IM) since you have to be a little patient. In the 200 (IM) you can just go all out probably since the first 25 (meters).”

On August 8, his goal was actualized when he swam his best long-course 200-meter IM at the 2013 Spanish Nationals in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain.

“When I got off the blocks I just thought about all the hard work that I was doing, about all my teammates and all the support the coaches gave me here,” he said. “I thought about all those guys, all the mornings, all the stuff that we’ve been going though and, you know, the hard work and I saw myself ready and I said ‘now is the moment to do, all year training for this’ so I was really ready. I wasn’t even feeling pain or tired I was just focused on keep swimming fast.”

He touched at 1:59.39, making him the fastest Spaniard to ever swim the event.

After his strong summer, Solaeche-Gomez is poised for a big year.

Troy called him one of his potential breakout swimmers this season at the All-Sports press conference on Sept. 16.

“It’s always good hearing that from your coach. That means he has his confidence in you,” Solaeche-Gomez said. “He makes me feel important on the team…I just decided to change my mind. I give my best all the time.”

And a confidence boost at this point may be all he needs to reach the next level.

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Santiago Gavino Ready to Take on Challenges of New Florida Golf Season

By on October 4th, 2013

Jim Burgess / Gatorzone

Santiago Gavino

When it comes to athletic prominence, golf in Mexico does not have the long nor storied history of other national pastimes like soccer and boxing. But to University of Florida redshirt junior Santiago Gavino, the desire to compete on the course was instilled not long after birth.

Born and raised in the north-central city of San Luis Potosi, Gavino followed in the footsteps of both his father and Mexican idol Lorena Ochoa, taking up the game at the age of 5 years old. Nestled in the mountainous terrain a short distance from his childhood home are two of the premier courses in the region: La Loma, designed by PGA legend Jack Nicklaus, and the San Luis Country Club. The two courses provided the upstart golfer the perfect locations to hone his craft.

Two years into his high school career, Gavino transitioned to the United States, settling in Austin, Texas, at St. Michael’s Catholic Academy. Although the move north of the border created some challenges, the change of scenery was met with optimism.

“It was a little difficult, but living in Texas for a couple of years made it easier,” Gavino said. “I knew English pretty well, so that was not too bad. I missed family and friends like everybody else, but you make your new life when you come here.”

Playing in America while still residing close to his homeland opened new doors for the budding star. In 2009, Gavino tied for fourth place at the Mexican Amateur Tournament and earned a second place finish with Mexico at the Toyota Junior World Team Championship.

After graduating from St. Michael’s in 2010, Gavino headed even further away from home, arriving at Florida in fall of that same year. To some, a redshirt season comes as a disappointment, but Gavino admits spending the 2010-2011 season out of competition was good for his development as a player.

“When I got here, I wasn’t playing at my best,” he recalls. “It helped me to practice more, to get a little more into it, and feel comfortable for the years to come.”

The time spent refining his technique and settling into the Gator golf program was beneficial. After spending another season outside the tee box, Gavino saw action in four tournaments for UF in 2012-2013. His inaugural campaign was highlighted by a team leading 67 at the SunTrust Gator Invitational, the lowest score posted by a Gator all season, and a fourth place finish at The Invitational at Kiawah, scoring 222 overall for the tournament at the acclaimed Ocean Course.

A sixth place finish at the 2013 US Open Local Qualifier started the year in impressive fashion, and for the 2013-2014 collegiate season, Gavino believes he is poised for a breakout.

“My major goal is to win a tournament individually. Hopefully I get a win this year. As a team, I think we have a chance to win a couple of tournaments,” said Gavino. “I’m feeling good about my game.”

As golf’s popularity continues to rise in Mexico and the southwestern United States, and with 2013-2014 brimming with opportunities to surge to the top and achieve a lifelong goal of playing professionally, Santiago Gavino’s potential in the southeast continues to grow.

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Frazier finds a Second Family on Florida’s Gymnastics Team

By on October 4th, 2013
Morgan Frazier

Missy Perez / WRUF

Morgan Frazier

University of Florida gymnast Morgan Frazier left her hometown of Orlando in December of 2012 to start training with the UF gymnastics team. Only 17 when she enrolled at UF, college was a big change for her.

“It’s definitely not like high school. Everything is much faster—it took me awhile to get used to it, but now I feel pretty confident in it,” said Frazier.

Frazier, however, took no time getting comfortable with her new team.

“I love being on a team where everyone just loves each other. We’re just one giant family, and the coaches are amazing—I just love everything,” said Frazier.

A Florida native, Frazier dreamed of coming to the University of Florida since she was young. Now as an athlete for Florida, she is still excited to run out of the Gator head for competitions or doing the Gator chomp during floor routines.

When asked what she is most proud of so far in her gymnastics career, Frazier did not even hesitate.

“Receiving a scholarship to Florida, I’m definitely most proud of that,” said Frazier. “I absolutely love being a Gator.”

However, Frazier will not let her past accomplishments stand in the way of her goals, as she looks forward to the rest of her time as a University of Florida gymnast.

“My number one goal is to help my team win another SEC championship,” said Frazier. “Actually, forget that; it is to win another national championship.”

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Nora Barry looks to lead Gators lacrosse both on and off the field

By on October 2nd, 2013

Brandon Spierto / WRUF

Nora Barry

For most 18 year-old high school recruits, making the decision to attend school over 1,000 miles away from home can be extremely difficult. But for Florida lacrosse midfielder Nora Barry, it was easy.

“Florida was my first visit,” said Barry. “And ultimately none of the other visits really compared.”

Barry, now entering her junior season, grew up just 15 miles outside of Syracuse in Marcellus, New York. She starred at Marcellus High School, racking up 261 career goals on her way to being named a two-time US Lacrosse All-American. By her senior year, Barry was being heavily recruited by nearly every major lacrosse program in the country.

“I considered a lot of schools and my parents were really nice and helpful in taking me around the country to see what school was the best fit for me,” said Barry. “I think with Florida it was just the coaches and the fact that the school put so much into their sports programs. This facility had just been built, and at that time it was the only facility in the country built just for women’s lacrosse. So I could tell right off the bat this was going to be a good program.”

Barry became in an instant contributor the moment she stepped on campus, starting all 22 games at midfield her freshman year. She was named the American Lacrosse Conference’s Rookie of the Year after a season in which she tallied 40 goals and set a new UF school record for ground balls with 48.

Barry’s success continued into her sophomore season, scoring 26 goals and playing a key role in the Gators’ third straight regular season conference title.

Florida lost twelve seniors off that team, however, leaving the Gators with only six upperclassmen on the roster heading into this season. Barry said it will be tough to replace those seniors, but she is doing her best this off-season to take more of a leadership role.

“Just knowing that there are only six of us and almost 30 underclassmen, I think we’re all trying hard to set a good example,” said Barry.

While she’s focused on becoming more of a leader off the field, Barry has worked on her versatility on the field this as well.

“I’m trying to improve on being more versatile offensively,” said Barry. “I want to be able to shoot from anywhere, not just dodging from up top and taking shots from the typical midfield position. Defensively, I’m just trying to play stronger and work on keeping people out.”

Barry’s goal for the team this year is to capture the program’s first ever national championship. And while she’s pegged by many as one of the top midfielders in the conference heading into this season, her individual goals this year have nothing to do with scoring goals or setting records.

“I just want to be the best leader I can on the field, and set a good example off of it,” she said.

The Gators hope the younger players will follow Barry’s example as they continue to prepare for their upcoming season. Florida will begin their 2014 campaign on February 14 against the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels.

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Lauren Rose: A Gator Since Birth

By on October 2nd, 2013

Courtney McKenna / WRUF

Lauren Rose

For Lauren Rose, becoming part of the Gator Nation was important to her even before she joined the University of Florida Gymnastics team.

Rose, a senior at the University of Florida, had a passion for the Gators growing up. Several of her family members attended Florida, and her dad became a converted fan after marring Rose’s mother, a Gator alumna. Rose wanted to share her family’s deep bond with the school.

“I’ve always wanted to come here because my mom came here and my uncle came here and we would always come to the gymnastics meets when I was really little and it was just my dream,” said Rose. “It feels really good to know that we are all true Gators.”

When asked what her greatest life achievement was thus far, Rose talked about her two passions: the Gators and gymnastics.

“Being accepted to come to Florida for gymnastics and also level 10 nationals [for competitive gymnastics],” said Rose.

For gymnasts of Lauren Rose’s caliber, gymnastics becomes a part of life at an early age. Rose began going to classes at the age of three and began competing around the age of seven.

Rose has spent countless hours in the gym immersing herself into gymnastics. Even with the demands of the sport, Rose never doubted her passion and drive to succeed in gymnastics.

“I just love it. The feeling of learning a new skill or catching your first release move feels too good to give up,” said Rose. “It is going to be sad when I am done with gymnastics.”

Coming off of a 2013 Gator National Championship win, Rose is excited to start a new gymnastics season and senior year, and motivated to win another championship.

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Florida cross-country star Jimmy Clark runs unexpected path

By on September 27th, 2013

Kelly Price / WRUF

Jimmy Clark

Gators men’s cross-country runner Jimmy Clark never really liked running. From about age 4 until his high school sophomore year, soccer was his passion.

Then came a piece of paper in the mail, offering him a scholarship. Clark said that moment threw “everything else out the window.”

His first college letter wasn’t from a school with a men’s soccer team. It came from the University of Florida cross-country program.

“I actually hated the Gators when I was growing up,” Clark said. “But when I got my first recruiting letters from here, a lot changed.”

One morning, Clark said he raced in Jacksonville, then hustled into the family car to drive four hours to Tampa for a soccer tournament. The day was so hurried he had to change on the field into cleats and soccer gear.

That day, he returned to his Jacksonville home to the letter from Gainesville.

“I got that first letter and that was really my first wake-up call that I think I’m going to have to stop playing soccer because my future is in running,” he said.

His cross-country coach at Creekside High, Eric Frank, forced Clark to run. Ask anyone, Clark said; soccer was his thing.

“The amount of times (coaches) had to convince me to stay out and actually run is surprising to a lot of people,” he said. “I just didn’t want to do it.”

After Frank threw Clark into a three-times-weekly running schedule, Clark made the state meet as a sophomore. He shattered the Class 3A 5K record with 14:58.47 in 2010. The next month, he posted 15:24 for seventh place in the national Foot Locker Cross Country Championships in San Diego. He was named Gatorade Florida Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year in 2011.

Somewhere along the line, running became his priority and passion.

When he enrolled at UF, Clark said it took him about a year and a half to adjust to college life.

“When you come out of high school as one of the best in the state or one of the best in the nation, you’re on top,” he said. “And when you come in here, you get humbled. You’re not at the top of the totem poll anymore.”

But he kept grinding, ending his first collegiate season as SEC Men’s Freshman Runner of the Year.

Now a junior, Clark has revamped his diet and training regime. He ran a career-best 23:53.78 in an 8K Sept. 14 at the Mountain Dew Invite at UF’s Mark Bostick Golf Course and was recognized as the Southeastern Conference Men’s runner of the week – and that’s just within the first month of the cross-country season.

Every morning, his alarm wakes him at 5:30 for 6 a.m. practice, classes, more practice and more class. Most days, he said he wants to just eat and go to bed by the end of the day. But, Clark said, there’s nowhere other than Gainesville he’d rather be.

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