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Gymnastics Headline

Kristen Guise Lee, an 11-time All-American, becomes a Gator Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Friday.

Thursday April 5, 2012Outstanding Gator gymnastics career earns Kristen Guise Lee spot in Florida Athletics Hall of Fame

Gainesville, Fla.

Kristen Guise Lee, an 11-time All-American, becomes a Gator Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Friday.

By Mara Rudolph, UF Communications

 

It was the beginning of the 1996 gymnastics season when Robert Guise found a dime on the ground and called his daughter over.

“Look – 10 cents. It’s a 10.0,” he said to her.

 

At the time, Kristen Guise laughed at how cheesy the sentiment was. Several months later, she posted her first 10.0 on the uneven bars on Senior Night, beating her own record of 9.95 set at the 1994 NCAA Southeast Regionals. She looked over at her family, and there was the dime.

 

 “My dad had it in his hand in his pocket for the whole season,” Guise said. “I looked up, and he had his dime.”

 

Guise's Collegiate Honors as a Gator

● 11-time All-America – all-time high for Gator program

● 1995 Southeastern Conference all-around & uneven bars champion

● 1996 Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Year and NCAA all-around runner-up

● 1995 & 1996 All-Southeastern Conference team member

● Still holds Florida all-around (39.80) record and shares Gator uneven bars record (10.0)

● Fourth on Gators career list with 17 all-around titles

The perfect score was yet another crowning achievement in Guise’s Florida gymnastics career. In 1996, her senior season, Guise became the first Florida gymnast to win the Southeastern Conference Gymnast of the Year award. She performed as an all-arounder in every meet of the 1996 season, winning 33 of a possible 55 event titles, including six all-around crowns, and placed second in the all-around competition at the NCAA Championships with a total of 39.425 – just .025 away from the meet title. At the end of her career, Guise had collected 11 All-America honors – a total that has made her the most decorated gymnast in school history to this day (shared with Chrissy Van Fleet).

 

On Friday, April 6, Guise, now known as Kristen Guise Lee, will be recognized for her athletic accomplishments as a “Gator Great.” She will be inducted to the University of Florida 2012 Athletic Hall of Fame, alongside individuals “who have brought recognition and prominence to the University Athletic Association.” Joining her in the 2012 Gator Greats class are Alex Brown (football), Hazel Clark Riley (track & field), Udonis Haslem (basketball), Jeff Morrison (tennis), Stephanie Nickitas (tennis), Larry Travis (football) and Abby Wambach (soccer).

 

“I’m honored. When (Curtis Head, Assistant Director for Gator Boosters) was telling me who was going in, I was thinking, ‘Wow. These are really cool people. Are you sure I’m supposed to be going in with them?’ He said I didn’t realize what I had done at UF, but I look at it as I’m honored to be a part of this class of inductees,” Guise said.

 

Of course, she had to call her family and tell them the good news.

 

“I called my dad and I could hear his voice cracking. He was crying and he said he was so happy for me, and my mom was so excited she was screaming,” she said. “My parents were there for everything. Every time I finished something, I’d look up and they were always there. My mom is my rock, and my dad is my biggest fan. He always has been and he always will be.”

 

Guise said she is honored to be recognized for something that she considered a job.

 

“I was given the privilege to get a scholarship. The University of Florida was paying my way through school. My gymnastics here was a job, and when I do my job, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability,” she said. “What I did, I did because I loved it, and I loved the sport. For people to recognize that just makes it so much more enjoyable and so much more fun.”

 

Guise has many fond memories of sitting in the back of the Captain Jack (Florida’s private plane which transported Gator teams) and eating bagels with her teammates, and she loved running out to the cheers of the crowd during home meets. Through Florida, Guise was able to go to Fukuoka, Japan, to compete in the 1995 World University Games, and following graduation, she moved to Ohio to use her tumbling skills as a performer in a Sea World show.

 

These days, Guise works for Wilmar, a company based in Orlando that specializes in upgrading apartment complexes, hotels and resorts.

 

“I help them basically redesign and furnish their entire facility,” she said. “It’s not a glamorous job, but I get in there, get my hands dirty, and I know how to change every single thing in my house now. It’s a fun job. I’m in outside sales so I’m on the road all day, and it’s a very big territory that I cover. I really enjoy it.”

 

And she still has plenty of time to come to Gainesville to watch football, baseball and of course gymnastics with her husband, Kevin.

 

“It’s like you bleed orange and blue. Once you’re here, you can never leave. That’s what I love about being so close is that I can come back. Once you’re a Gator, you’re always a Gator,” Guise said.

 

She said she still feels connected to the gymnastics program. She keeps in touch with several of her old teammates, and when she comes to the meets, she still gets anxious from the competition.

 

“My hands get sweaty. I watch the girls, and having done it, I know what they’re feeling and I know what they’re thinking. I know the tension, the nerves, but then I know the excitement because it’s your home crowd,” she said.

 

Despite all the anxiety and nerves, Guise said she would compete for Florida all over again.

 

“I look back at my time here, and that’s the time of my life that I would do again. Being able to get a full scholarship and get an amazing degree from an amazing school and be able to compete all four years without injury, be successful and enjoy it the whole way – that’s the best. It’s the whole package that I can look back on,” she said. “The schooling, the academics, the friends, the athletics, and everybody involved. It made it fun. It’s one of those things that I look back and can’t believe I got the opportunity to do, and I took advantage of it. That was the best experience ever.”

 

 

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