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Monday February 24, 2014 Gator gymnastics fans packing O'Connell Center at record pace

Updated: 5:21pm, February 24

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – An hour before the doors of the O’Connell Center opened Friday night, a line snaked from the front entrance and down the sidewalk along Gale Lemerand Drive.

It was Florida’s annual “Link to Pink” meet to benefit breast cancer awareness. The first 2,000 fans received free T-shirts, always an extra incentive to arrive early.

But after the initial rush of fans, a steady stream continued to pour into the O’Dome for Florida’s victory over SEC rival LSU. The announced crowd of 9,197 was the fifth-largest in school history.

Gators gymnastics chart

“It was everything we were looking for,’’ Gators head coach Rhonda Faehn said. “It was an incredible crowd, first of all. Our athletes just feed off that. Our fans are unbelievable week in and week out.”

They certainly have been this season.

The defending national-champion Gators are averaging 8,148 fans per home meet. They have drawn 32,594 fans total in four meets at the O’Dome. The last chance for fans to catch the Gators at home is on March 7 when UF hosts West Virginia on Senior Night.

How big of a draw has Faehn’s program become? Consider that if no one shows up on Senior Night – repeat, no one -- UF will still set the school record for average season attendance (6,518).

The current record of 6,455 was set in 1989.

Sophomore Bridget Sloan made it a point to give the fans a shout out after Friday’s victory over LSU.

“We were competing for them. We won for them,’’ Sloan said. “It’s awesome to not only compete for Florida, but to compete for a cause. The fans were outstanding.”

A look at what the Gators’ 2014 average attendance will be "if more than zero" people show up on Senior Night:

Gators gymnastics chart

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