No 1 Gator Gymnastics Gets Out Alive

Inside the orange filled O’Dome on Friday night the top ranked Florida gymnastics team had moments they will remember forever, and they had moments they would rather forget as soon as possible. In spite of some uncharacteristic mistakes, the Gators walked out with a win over the No. 23 Kentucky Wildcats 196.975-196.075.

In an effort to rest some of the athletes on the team, there were no gymnasts competing in all-around on Friday night, which is the first time since February 18, 2011 that a Gator hasn’t competed in that event.

The Gators opened up with a powerful vault rotation, with freshman Bridget Sloan posting a collegiate best 9.95 and sophomore Kytra Hunter following right behind her tying her collegiate best of a near-perfect 9.975.  Junior Mackenzie Caquatto also recorded her collegiate-best with a 9.925. The vault score of 49.55 is the team’s second highest this season and is tied for fifth highest in school history. Gator coach Rhonda Faehn says that although Hunter’s vault did not receive a perfect 10, it should have.

Going into the uneven bars rotation, the Gators continued to score high, with Hunter posting another collegiate best with a score of 9.95, and Sloan finishing almost perfect, upping her season best to 9.975. Bridgette Caquatto made her Gator debut, rounding out the bars rotation, marking the first time in almost 30 years that a pair of sisters have competed in the Florida lineup together (Lynn and Karen McDonnell performed at the NCAA Championships in 1984). Although Bridgette fell off the bars, she says it was a special day to share with her sister cheering her on.

With command going into the third rotation, Florida started to have some trouble. After a solid lead off performance by senior Randy Stageberg and sophomore Rachel Spicer, the next three gymnasts struggled to stay on the beam. Sloan and Mackenzie Caquatto fell off the beam, while Hunter suffered three big wobbles, leading to serious deductions. All three gymnasts consistently score 9.9’s or higher on beam normally, but on Friday the team was forced to count Hunter’s 9.65 and Sloan’s 9.325 into their beam score total, bringing it 48.525. Senior Ashanée Dickerson rounded out the beam lineup, taking a share of the event title with lead off Stageberg, who won her first collegiate beam title. Dickerson says that being able to produce a solid routine for her team was a great feeling.

Once the Gators stepped on the floor for the final rotation, it was lights out. Sophomores Jamie Shisler and Kiersten Wang both posted their collegiate best floor routines, while seniors Dickerson and Marissa King shined in front of their beloved home crowds, both scoring a 9.9 or above. King says that along with her fans, she had some special guests in the O’Dome Friday to celebrate her 9.95 floor title win.

Friday night’s matchup with Kentucky showed that, despite being ranked number one, anything can happen on a given night.  As the regular season runs on, the fatigue of the sport is starting to catch up. But these are the kind of mistakes Faehn would rather the team make now than down the road in the postseason, and most importantly, these mistakes are fixable. Faehn says that meet’s like Friday’s give the team a gut check and something to fight for going forward.

Friday night’s meet will air tape-delayed on CSS February 25 at 9 p.m. and CST February 28 at 1 p.m. Florida’s last regular season home meet is Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in the O’Dome against No. 12 Minnesota (12-1, 4-1 Big 10). It is Senior Night and the careers of Florida’s Dickerson, King, Dali Lemezan and Stageberg will be celebrated in a postmeet ceremony. That meet airs tape-delayed on SUN Sports March 10 at 9 a.m. and again March 12 at 1 p.m.

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