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The Gators won their 13th NCAA Regional title Saturday to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 31st time.

Saturday April 6, 2013No. 1 Gator Gymnasts put aside challenges to win NCAA Gainesville Regional

Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators won their 13th NCAA Regional title Saturday to advance to the NCAA Championships for the 31st time.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

The news was not good when the MRI results came back.

 

Florida Event Winners Saturday

Vault:

Ashanée Dickerson

9.950

 

Kytra Hunter

9.950

Uneven Bars:

Bridget Sloan

9.975

Balance Beam:

Marissa King

9.950

Floor Exercise

Kytra Hunter

9.950

 

Marissa King

9.950

All-Around

Kytra Hunter

39.775

Senior Randy Stageberg, a rock in Florida gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn's lineup on the floor and beam, was finished with a shoulder fracture.

 

Stageberg dislocated the shoulder in practice leading up to Saturday night's NCAA Gainesville Regional, ending her career and casting a shadow over the Gators with the season's biggest meet on the horizon.

 

And then on Saturday, Faehn spent much of the day texting the team's trainer and the parents of junior Mackenzie Caquatto about Caquatto's root canal on Friday evening.

 

In a tragic twist to Caquatto's emergency dental work, Faehn learned Friday that the team's dentist, Thomas Weber, had died in a single-car accident only hours after Faehn saw him Thursday night at her son's soccer practice.

 

The UF training staff scrambled to arrange for another dentist to work on Caquatto as Faehn tried to make sense of everything that was happening.

 

"We had a very challenging week,'' Faehn said late Saturday.

 

Despite everything, when the No. 1-ranked Gators took the floor at the O'Connell Center on Saturday night in front of a boisterous crowd of 7,137, they did what they do best.

 

Florida's near-flawless performance Saturday earned the Gators a berth in the NCAA Championships April 19-21 in Los Angeles. The Gators finished with a score of 198.400, the second-best score in school history and easily enough to defeat the five other teams in the competition.

 

Minnesota finished second (197.100) to also advance.

 

"Not knowing if she was going to be able to go was really making things a little sketchy heading into tonight, but I was not concerned because I knew that anyone that was going to step in would do an amazing job,'' Faehn said. "They were just lights out."

 

The Gators' lineup dominated from top to bottom. Sophomore Kytra Hunter won the all-around title and shared the floor title with teammate Marissa King. Hunter also shared the vault title with five others, including teammate Ashanée Dickerson.

 

Meanwhile, Gators freshman Bridget Sloan won on bars with a career-best 9.975 score, and King took top honors on beam (personal-best 9.950).

 

When it was all over, the Gators celebrated by soaking up cheers from the home fans and relishing a return trip to the national championships, where the Gators finished runner-up to Alabama a year ago.

 

"There's not a doubt in my mind about our lineup,'' said Sloan, the 2009 World Champion who finished second to Hunter on Saturday for the all-around title. "We have the depth, we have the talent. It's absolutely incredible to walk into the gym and know that if you are not in the lineup, someone who goes in for you is going to hit."

 

The loss of Stageberg hit especially hard.

 

Instead of sulking, Stageberg turned into a motivating force at practice and was the team's biggest fan Saturday.

 

"Randy has been amazing,'' Faehn said. "Our heart broke. It was a freak injury. It was something she did as a senior in high school. She just took off twisting [at practice] and her shoulder went out."

 

With Stageberg out, junior Alaina Johnson returned to the lineup for the first time since January. Johnson missed three months due to a stress fracture in her lower back.

 

If there was any rust to shake off, she must have done it at practice.

 

Johnson finished tied for sixth on the uneven bars at 9.875 and placed sixth on the vault with a 9.925, just .025 points behind the five gymnasts who tied for first.

 

"This team is incredible,'' Johnson said. "They have pushed me through practices and they have helped me get back."

 

Florida's outing Saturday was a true team effort.

 

Hunter credited the team's focus and goal of winning a national title as helping the Gators stay sharp despite some of the turbulence leading up to the meet.

 

"Everyone just stayed in our bubble and we pushed each other,'' Hunter said. "It was a fun night."

 

Caquatto did her part. She delivered toothache and all, placing third overall on beam (9.90) and bars (9.925).

 

With Stageberg out, Rachel Spicer led off on beam with a score of 9.80, and Kiersten Wang led off on floor, scoring a 9.85. The younger Caquatto, Bridgette, stepped into the floor lineup with a career-best 9.925.

 

Faehn urged the Gators to go all out and leave nothing to chance in the final home meet for the four-member senior class of King, Dickerson, Stageberg and Dali Lemezan.

 

"There were just so many positives and so many things we overcame tonight to show our true potential,'' Faehn said. "The team really responded well. They just knew what they were capable of doing. It was just taking care of business."

 

The 198.400 team score was the 10th-best in NCAA history and is surpassed only by the 198.425 the Gators posted in a win over Minnesota earlier this season.

 

Gophers coach Meg Stephenson, whose team is back in the NCAA Finals for the first time in 11 years, won't be surprised if Florida finally joins Utah, Alabama, Georgia and UCLA as the only programs to win a national title.

 

Not after what the Gators did Saturday.

 

"To have this type of fan base, you have to be really spectacular,'' Stephenson said. "You have to be something special to have that kind of support. They are a fantastic team and they have a great shot of winning it all."

 

NCAA Gainesville Region Championships

Final Team Totals

April 6, 2013 ● Stephen C. O’Connell Center (7,137)

Team

Vault

Bars

Beam

Floor

Total

Florida

49.600

49.600

49.550

49.650

198.400

Minnesota

49.525

49.250

49.100

49.225

197.100

Auburn

49.375

49.150

49.075

49.100

196.700

Maryland-College Park

49.050

48.925

48.850

48.750

195.575

Pittsburgh

48.800

48.875

48.200

48.900

194.775

Bridgeport

48.675

48.400

48.225

48.925

194.225

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gator Notes:

● Florida owns 13 NCAA Regional team titles – 1982, 1984, 1985, 1987, 1997, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012& 2013.

● Florida has won the NCAA Regional team title in eight of the 11 season under Rhonda Faehn.

● Gators’ 198.40 is second-highest in school history and nation’s second-highest of 2013, behind UF’s 198.425 set on March 1

● Florida enters the NCAA Championships as the top seed

● Gator senior Randy Stageberg is out for remainder of season after dislocating right shoulder in March 29 training.

● Alaina Johnson made first appearance in Gator lineup since Jan. 18 after being sidelined with a stress reaction and stress fracture of lower back. She turned in a 9.925 on vault & a 9.875 on bars.

● Florida’s 49.60 on vault is third-highest in school history and second-highest of season (UF had a 49.625 versus Auburn on Jan. 25, 2013). 49.60 on bars matches sixth-highest in UF history & equals second-highest of 2013. 49.55 on beam is No. 4 on UF’s all-time list and UF’s second-highest of season. 49.65 equals UF’s second-highest of season & second-highest all-time on floor.

● Every Gator event had a change from the Southeastern Conference Championships’ lineup – Alaina Johnson added for vault and uneven bars, Marissa King on beam and Bridgette Caquatto on floor exercise.

● Crowd of 7,137 is third-highest for Florida this season & highest for a NCAA Regional in Gainesville (previous high of 6,032 in 2008)

● Florida’s season attendance average of 5,865 is fifth-highest in school history.

● Rhonda Faehn is the NCAA Southeast Region Coach of the Year for the sixth time of her career (2003, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2013).

● Florida’s Adrian Burde and Robert Ladanyi share the NCAA Southeast Region Assistant Coach of the Year honor. The pair also shared the 2011 honor.

 

2013 NCAA Championship Field

Seed

School

Region Score

RQS

NQS

Region Champion

1

Florida

198.400

197.840

396.24

X

2

Oklahoma

197.375

197.570

394.945

X

3

Alabama

197.400

197.415

394.815

X

4

Georgia

197.425

197.260

394.685

X

5

LSU

197.275

197.180

394.455

X

6

UCLA

196.950

197.200

394.15

 

7

Michigan

196.725

197.235

393.96

X

8

Minnesota

197.100

196.615

393.715

 

9

Stanford

196.800

196.710

393.51

 

10

Utah

196.400

197.105

393.505

 

11

Arkansas

196.950

196.435

393.385

 

12

Illinois

196.025

196.210

392.235

 

Shading denotes teams in Florida’s semifinal session (April 19 – Semifinal I)

 

 

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