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Gator seniors Nicole Ellis, Elizabeth Mahlich, Kailey Tissue & Amy Ferguson.

Friday March 16, 2012No. 1 Florida Gymnastics uses nation's second-highest total to defeat No. 7 Utah

Gainesville, Fla.

Gator seniors Nicole Ellis, Elizabeth Mahlich, Kailey Tissue & Amy Ferguson.

The No. 1 Florida gymnastics team (11-1, 5-1 SEC) used the nation’s second-highest total of 2012 to finish its regular-season schedule with a win versus No. 7 Utah (7-3, 3-1 Pac 12) Friday evening in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 5,762. The Gators posted a 197.90, which also stands as the fourth-highest in school history, and the Utes finished with a 196.475.

 

Gator Event Winners Friday

Vault

Alaina Johnson

9.90

Uneven Bars

Ashanée Dickerson

9.95

 

Alaina Johnson

9.95

Balance Beam

Alaina Johnson

9.925

 

Marissa King

9.925

Floor Exercise

Kytra Hunter

9.95

 

Marissa King

9.95

All-Around

Alaina Johnson

39.675

Florida’s score is second only this season to the 198.05 turned in by UCLA on Feb. 26.

 

The all-around performances Friday of three Gator All-Americans rank among the nation’s best of the season. Sophomore Alaina Johnson equaled her collegiate-best of 39.675 to take her second win of the season. Also turning in a collegiate-best was junior Marissa King, who was second 39.65. Fellow junior Ashanée Dickerson was third with her season-best total of 39.625.

 

Johnson’s total matches the nation’s third-highest of the season, while King’s checks in at the No. 6 spot and Dickerson’s holds the No. 7 position. It was the first time in Florida history that three Gator gymnasts posted all-around totals of 39.625 or above in the same meet.

 

Attendance Average is Third-Highest in School History

Florida’s five-meet average attendance of 6,200 per meet ranks as the third-highest average in the program’s 40-year history.

 

 

Year

Attendance Average

1989

6,455

2008

6,358

2012

6,200

2011

6,127

2010

5,818

The win was the fifth of Johnson’s Gator career. Florida Head Coach Rhonda Faehn likes the variety shown by the team’s all-arounders.

 

Watch Rhonda Faehn’s post-meet comments here

 “It just shows Alaina is an absolutely beautiful gymnast. On any given day, she can challenge to win any title on any event for any meet. She performs with such great execution and her lines and overall appearance is really pleasing to the eye. That is an advantage for her,” Faehn said. “Marissa, Kytra (Hunter) and Ashanée are powerful and dynamic, while Alaina is more of the finesse and the grace. It’s a really nice balance. On any given day, any one of those athletes can really challenge for the win, but it was Alaina’s night tonight.”

 

Big marks on each event led to the Gators taking at least a share of every apparatus title Friday. The depth of this team was shown as Gators paired up to share three of the event titles and all were won with marks of 9.90 or higher.

 

Johnson shared her fourth vault title of the season with Utah’s Kailah Delaney and Georgia Dabritz at 9.90. Johnson and Dickerson both posted uneven bars marks of 9.95 to tie for that event title. The mark was a collegiate-best for Dickerson and equals Johnson’s season-best. It was the 10th bars win for Johnson in her career and the fourth for Dickerson.

 

Johnson and King shared the balance beam title at 9.925. The mark equals Johnson’s collegiate-best and the score gives King her seventh win on the event this season. Six of King’s 10 beam performances in 2012 have yielded marks of 9.925 or above.

 

Florida matched the sixth-highest floor total in school history of 49.60 to finish the meet. Florida’s final four floor performers – Johnson, Dickerson, King and Kytra Hunter – all turned in marks of 9.90 or above. Both King and Hunter opened their routines with double-layouts and shared the floor win at 9.95. Dickerson was third at 9.925.

 

The Gators started the meet slow on vault, but Faehn liked how the Gators didn’t let that event impact their later performances. But vault landings will be something the team will focus on in its preparations for the March 24 Southeastern Conference Championships.

 

“Starting out on vault, I wasn’t pleased because we didn’t stick one landing, so that made me upset. That being said, they didn’t carry it over to bars and just attacked the landings there, and the same goes for beam and floor. We finally really put it all together on the floor,” she said. “We made improvements, but if it was the week off that we had where we hadn’t really focused on landings, that showed tonight. That’s something positive for us to work on heading into SECs, and something to get better on.”

 

Friday was Senior Night and the careers of the Gators’ Nicole Ellis, Amy Ferguson and Elizabeth Mahlich, along with student coach Kailey Tissue, were celebrated in a post-meet ceremony. Performing in front of the O’Connell Center fans for a final time was a moment Ellis and Ferguson took in.

 

“I think for the first time I really paid attention to what was going on around me because usually you’re so nervous. You’re so focused on what you’re doing that you don’t even hear the crowd or people cheering,” Ferguson said. “I think this time I really just stood there and took it all in. I really soaked in every minute of it. It’s something that I will never forget.”

 

Ellis, who held her stuck bars dismount a bit longer than normal, echoed Ferguson’s sentiments.

 

“I was telling myself to soak it up because this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience – being a college athlete – and it being the last meet, I just wanted to take everything in and enjoy every last second of it,” Ellis said.

 

King said the seniors will be missed next season.

 

“They are such a great tribute to the team. I know coming in as a freshman I didn’t know very much about college and they were the ones helping me get through that,” King said. “They bring such positivity to the team. Every little aspect they do is what makes our team today and gets us our results this season. I’m really going to miss having them there in the gym with us every day.”

 

Now the Gators begin the championship portion of their season. Florida will contend for the league title at the March 24 SEC Championships in Duluth, Ga. The meet begins at 4 p.m. (ET) in the Gwinnett Center. Five of the seven SEC teams currently rank among the nation’s top 10 – No. 1 Florida, No. 4 Alabama, No. 5 Georgia, No. 9 Arkansas and No. 10 LSU.

Ticket prices for lower, mezzanine and club level seats range from $12 to $16. An $8 price is available for fans buying six for more tickets in the club level. Contact TicketMaster at 800-745-3000 to secure tickets to the nation’s top collegiate gymnastics conference championship.

 No. 1 Florida versus No. 7 Utah

March 16, 2012 ● Stephen C. O’Connell Center (5,762)

Team

Vault

Bars

Beam

Floor

Total

Florida

49.325

49.500

49.475

49.600

197.900

Utah

49.325

48.900

49.075

49.175

196.475

 

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