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The No. 1 Gators celebrate Marissa King's floor routine, which won the event title at 9.95.

Friday February 22, 2013No. 1 Florida Gymnastics Defeat No. 23 Kentucky

Gainesville, Fla.

The No. 1 Gators celebrate Marissa King's floor routine, which won the event title at 9.95.

The No. 1 Florida gymnastics team (7-1, 6-1 SEC) finished Southeastern Conference regular-season action with a 196.975-196.075 win over No. 23 Kentucky (5-4-1, 3-3-1 SEC) Friday evening in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd of 4,321.

 

Florida Event Winners Friday

Vault

Kytra Hunter

9.975

Uneven Bars:

Bridget Sloan

9.975

Balance Beam

Ashanée Dickerson

9.875

 

Randy Stageberg

9.875

Floor Exercise

Marissa King

9.95

The Florida-Kentucky meet airs tape-delayed on CSS (Feb. 25 at 9 p.m.) and CST (Feb. 28 at 1 p.m.)

 

Florida opened the meet with a strong vault set. Sophomore Kytra Hunter, the defending NCAA event champion, put an exclamation point on Florida’s vault performance by equaling her collegiate-best of 9.975 for the fourth time of her career. Two other Gators turned in marks of 9.925 or better to earn their collegiate vault bests. Junior Mackenzie Caquatto earned a 9.925 and freshman Bridget Sloan posted a 9.95.

 

The Gators’ vault total of 49.55 is the team’s second highest this season and tied for fifth-highest in school history.

 

Collegiate-bests were also turned in by Hunter and Sloan on the Gators’ next event, the uneven bars. Sloan upped her bars best to 9.975 to claim her third consecutive win on the event. She is the seventh Gator to achieve the near-perfect mark on bars. Hunter was runner-up at 9.95, upping her best from 9.925 set Jan. 18 versus Missouri.

 

Problems arose for the Gators on the balance beam as the team was forced to count a fall and some balance checks toward its team total of 48.525. Florida’s opening and anchoring performers, seniors Randy Stageberg and Ashanée Dickerson, shared the evening’s title at 9.875. It was the first beam win in Stageberg’s collegiate career. The win ups Dickerson’s total of career event wins to 67, moving her into sole possession of fourth on the Gators’ career list.

 

UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn commented on Stageberg’s beam performance coming in the challenging lead-off position.

 

"You can't ask for more, especially from a senior. She's shown so much leadership. She has the heart. She is dying to be out there. Anytime she can get out there she is going to do her absolute best.” Faehn said. “That is a coaches’ dream."

 

Seniors Marissa King and Dickerson shined in their second-to-last regular-season floor exercise performances in front of the O’Connell Center crowd. King’s 9.95 matched her season-best and earned her the seventh floor title of her career. Dickerson posted a 9.90 to take second overall.

 

There are always plenty of Marissa King fans for Gator home meets, but tonight the biggest fans were in attendance as her parents made the trip from Cambridge, England, to take in Florida’s final two regular-season home meets.

 

“It was a phenomenal experience, not only competing in front of the Gator Nation but also in front of my parents because they’re here from England,” King said. “That was really special because it was their first-ever collegiate meet that they’ve seen. They haven’t seen me compete here in Florida ever and they haven’t seen me compete in the United States.”

 

King said she loves performing that floor routine, which made its debut in the 2011 season.

 

“I do love that floor routine. I loved it in my sophomore year,” she said. “Now I’m a senior and I’m even more comfortable with it. I can show off my sass.”

 

Unquestionably, there are some areas which will be a point of emphasis as the Gators prepare for next week’s regular-season home finale. Faehn is sure tonight’s problems are already being mulled over in the minds of the Gators as the team looks to make the needed corrections.

 

"Every meet each athlete is looking to make corrections from the last competition. I'm sure quite a few of them are already thinking about what they're doing this week at practice,” Faehn said. “It'll be good. If you have no challenges and it’s just records everywhere, they don't have something to fight for."

 

Tonight was the first time Mackenzie and Bridgette Caquatto both were in the Gators’ lineup. Bridgette is coming off summer shoulder surgery and Friday was her debut in the lineup. Bridgette had a miss on bars and an out-of-bounds on floor tonight, but the UF coaching staff feels her upside is high.

 

"As a coaching staff we all decided that she needs the experience. She is capable of being a 9.9 on two events minimum. Tonight was challenging for her because it was the first time she appeared in the lineup. I think she's going to learn from it. I know she is not happy with it,” Faehn said. “She really does have the potential to be a very big contributor and we wanted to see that."

 

The last time a pair of sisters competed for the Gators in the same meet was April 6, 1984 when Lynn (vault, floor) and Karen McDonnell (bars, beam) performed at the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles, Calif.

 

No Gators competed as all-arounders Friday. Kentucky’s Audrey Harrison took her sixth all-around win of 2013 at 39.225.

 

Next up, Florida meets No. 12 Minnesota (12-1, 4-1 Big 10) for the regular-season home finale on Friday, March 1 at 7 p.m. in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center. It is Senior Night and the careers of Florida’s Dickerson, King, Dali Lemezan and Stageberg will be celebrated in a post-meet ceremony.

 

Tickets for Friday’s meet are $4 for adults while children 17 and under and UF students with a Gator1 card are admitted free. Check out the Gator Ticket Office site for information on purchasing tickets. Resident of Gainesville? Show your ID at the ticket booth to get buy one, get free general admission tickets.

 

The Florida-Minnesota meet airs tape-delayed on SUN Sports March 10 at 9 a.m. and again March 12 at 1 p.m.

 

 

No. 1 Florida versus No. 23 Kentucky

Final Team Totals

Feb. 22, 2013 ● Stephen C. O’Connell Center (4,321)

Team

Vault

Bars

Beam

Floor

Total

Florida

49.550

49.475

48.525

49.425

196.975

Kentucky

49.050

48.950

49.150

48.925

196.075

 

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