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The No. 1 Gator gymnastics team won their eighth Southeastern Conference title Saturday.

Saturday March 24, 2012No. 1 Gator Gymnastics Team Claims Southeastern Conference Title

DULUTH, Ga.

The No. 1 Gator gymnastics team won their eighth Southeastern Conference title Saturday.

Photos by Mike Erdelyi

 

The No. 1 University of Florida gymnastics team (17-1, 5-1 SEC) claimed its second Southeastern Conference title in three years Saturday evening in front of 7,170 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

 

Gator Event Winners Saturday

Vault

Kytra Hunter

9.975

Uneven Bars

Alaina Johnson

9.925

All-Around

Kytra Hunter

39.625

The Gators posted a 197.15 to take the program’s eighth overall league crown. Defending meet and NCAA champion Alabama was second at 196.775, followed by Georgia (196.575), LSU (196.425), Kentucky (194.35), Arkansas (194.175) and Auburn (194.10).

 

Florida drew balance beam for its opening event, which is often considered a difficult road to a championship as it is sometimes difficult for the gymnasts to temper their adrenaline so early in a meet for an event which requires such exact precision. And history wasn’t in the Gators favor as no team has won the league crown starting on beam since Georgia in 1994.

 

More video from SEC Gymnastics Championships from SEC Digital Network

 

SEC Meet Overview

Interview with Rhonda Faehn

Interview with Kytra Hunter

But although it wasn’t their best beam performance of the season, it proved to be the best of the evening on the event. The Gators’ team tally of 49.05 matched Georgia for Saturday’s high beam total. No falls were registered, but wobbles and missed connections dinged the Gators potential total. Top scorers for the Gators came from their final two performers, as Marissa King posted a 9.85 to share third overall and Kytra Hunter was runner-up with her 9.875.

 

Florida’s Rhonda Faehn, who was named the SEC Co-Coach of the Year Saturday, liked the fight shown on beam Saturday.

 

“Of course, on the first event, I thought we were just a little bit shaky on beam. It is like that when you start on beam because it is a challenging event,” Faehn said. “I was really pleased with how the athletes stayed aggressive and strong and didn’t let it affect their emotional state.”

 

http://www.gatorzone.com/gallery/photos/1970/Freshman_1623_3x3.jpg

The last three Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year awards went to a Gator. From left: UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn, Alaina Johnson (2011), Kytra Hunter (2012) and Ashanée Dickerson (2010).

Florida turned in a 49.20 on floor exercise, as their score was held back by a few tumbling passes that didn’t quite show control on the landing. Hunter anchored the lineup with a team-high 9.90 – her seventh floor mark of 9.9 or better of her 10 floor performances. She tied for second overall in the final floor standings.

 

Vault is what separated the Gators from the field. The team posted a 49.525 - the high total of any event by any team. It is the highest team total ever by a Gator team in SEC Championships’ competition. Four Gators finished among the meet’s top four on the event, including Hunter’s winning mark of 9.975. King used a season-best 9.925 to share second while Ashanée Dickerson and Alaina Johnson tied for fourth at 9.90.

 

Faehn credited her team for not letting the tenths left on the floor exercise mat color the Gators’ vault performance.

 

“What I loved was that our athletes came back and were lights out on vault,” Faehn said. “We turned in our best vault performance of the season. I think that really energized our team and they hung tough.”

 

The two teams closest to Florida – Alabama and Georgia - finished on the sixth rotation and simple subtraction showed the Gators needed anything above a 49.0 to take the title over the Tide. Florida, the nation’s top-ranked team on the uneven bars, finished with a meet-high total of 49.375 on the event. Four Gators finished among the meet’s top five on the event. Mackenzie Caquatto shared second at 9.90 while Hunter and senior Nicole Ellis shared fifth at 9.875.

 

Tune in…

Watch the Southeastern Conference Championships on

ESPN2 at 9 p.m. ET on March 29

and

ESNPU at 9 p.m. on April 2

Johnson, as Florida’s final performer of the meet, claimed the bars title with her mark of 9.925. She is the first Gator to win bars since Melanie Sinclair shared the 2008 title. She said she was confident in her team’s performance on bars.

 

“I knew ending on bars was good because that was a strong event for us. I’m glad that we ended well. Of course, there were a few landings that we didn’t get but everyone had each other’s back,” Johnson said. “I was just proud that I was able to nail it for the team so we could finish off strong.”

 

Hunter, the SEC Freshman of the Year, picked up the all-around title at 39.625. She is the first Gator to claim the all-around win since Kristen Guise in 1995 and is the first Gator freshman to take the win since Elfi Schlegel in 1983. King was fourth in the all-around at 39.425 while Johnson was right behind her in fifth at 39.40.

 

King said the Gators are excited to bring the trophy back to Gainesville, but she knows this team isn’t satisfied.

 

“Funny thing is that we made quite a few mistakes today. We’ll go back and evaluate the film and work on making things better,” King said. “We are happy that we won SECs but we know this isn’t the end.”

 

Next up, the Gators await the NCAA’s announcement Monday at 3 p.m. ET of team assignments for the six NCAA Regional sites. The NCAA Regional Championships are set for April 7. The top two teams at each of the six sites will advance to the NCAA Championships, set for April 20-22 right back here at The Arena at Gwinnett Center.

 

Gator Notes:

● Florida owns eight Southeastern Conference team titles – 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 2007, 2010 & 2012.

● Kytra Hunter wins all-around – first Gator to win all-around since Kristen Guise in 1995. First Gator freshman to win all-around since Elfi Schlegel in 1983.

● Florida’s vault total of 49.525 is UF’s second-highest of 2012

● Hunter’s 9.975 on vault is a collegiate-best. She is the sixth different Gator to earn the nearly perfect mark. She wins event title, first for UF since Ashley Reed shared 2008 title (also in the Gwinnett Center).

● Alaina Johnson’s 9.925 wins SEC bars – first Gator to win bars since Melanie Sinclair shared 2008 title (also in Gwinnett Center).

● Rhonda Faehn is SEC Co-Coach of the Year. She has been named SEC Coach of the Year five of her 10 seasons with the Gators (2006, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2012).

● The SEC Freshman of the Year goes to a Gator for the third consecutive year – Kytra Hunter (2012), Alaina Johnson (2011), Ashanée Dickerson (2010).

 

Florida at Southeastern Conference Championships

Final Team Totals

March 24, 2012 ● The Arena at Gwinnett Center (7,170)

Team

Vault

Bars

Beam

Floor

Total

Florida

49.525

49.375

49.050

49.200

197.150

Alabama

49.325

49.275

48.825

49.350

196.775

Georgia

49.175

49.200

49.050

49.150

196.575

LSU

49.375

48.900

49.000

49.150

196.425

Kentucky

49.000

48.575

48.725

48.050

194.350

Arkansas

49.050

48.850

48.700

47.575

194.175

Auburn

48.900

48.825

48.675

47.700

194.100

 

2012 SEC Gymnastics Awards

SEC Gymnast of the Year

Jaime Pisani, Arkansas

 

 

SEC Freshman of the Year

Kytra Hunter, Florida

 

 

SEC Scholar-Athlete of the Year

Kim Jacob, Alabama

 

Laura Lane, Auburn

 

 

SEC Co-Coach of the Year

Rhonda Faehn, Florida

 

Jeff Graba, Auburn

 

 

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