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Monday April 22, 2013Welcome Home: Gators Return to Gainesville as National Champions

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- University of Florida president Bernie Machen spoke from the podium Monday night with a message for Gators gymnastics coach Rhonda Faehn.

"We could have done without the drama of the first event," he deadpanned.

Yeah, but what fun would that have been?

Instead, UF's back-from-the-abyss comeback Saturday night to win the program's first national title at the NCAA Championships in Los Angeles proved all the more satisfying, all the more sweeter.

Faehn and her gymnasts -- fresh off a cross-country flight from California, a bus ride from Orlando and police-escort trip from the outskirts of Gainesville-- were saluted at the O'Connell Center by a loyal and enthusiastic crowd that watched video board highlights of the dramatic meet all of which appeared over three words that forever will be tagged to this team.

"WE'VE GOT THIS!"

That's what Faehn told her team even after a pair of falls off the balance beam had the No. 1-ranked, No. 1-seeded Gators in last place after the first rotation. They needed help from there, but more than that they needed spot-on performances on bars, vault and floor.

All the Gators did was score meet-high totals in each to overtake two-time reigning NCAA champ Alabama and Oklahoma for the title.

And to think, it all started last fall when senior Marissa King declared in her British accent at the first team meeting, "It's going to be a blowout year."

Appropriately enough, it ended with ceremonial unveiling of the "NCAA Gymnastics National Champions 2013" banner, followed by a slew of hugs and smiles.

"I know it's going to continue to sink in," said Faehn, admittedly exhausted from the emotional whirlwind weekend. "But hopefully, there's more championships to come."

View the photo gallery.

 

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