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Kennedy Baker, Grace McLaughlin and Ericha Fassbender make up Florida's outstanding class signed Wednesday.

Wednesday November 13, 2013Standout Class to Join Gator Gymnastics Team

Gainesville, Fla.

Kennedy Baker, Grace McLaughlin and Ericha Fassbender make up Florida's outstanding class signed Wednesday.

Photos: John Cheng, Erin Long and Heather Maynez


An exceptional class signed with the University of Florida gymnastics team, Gator head coach Rhonda Faehn announced Wednesday. The trio – all from the state of Texas – will join the Gators for the 2015 season.


The class includes two U.S. Senior National Team members – Kennedy Baker (2013-14 and 2012-13) and Grace McLaughlin (2011-12) - and Ericha Fassbender, who was a part of the 2010-11 U.S. Junior National Team. 


Click here to see Rhonda Faehn’s comments about Gators’ 2013 signing class

Baker took third on the balance beam at the 2013 U.S. P&G Championships and was among the 11 who participated in the U.S.’s 2013 World Team Selection Camp in September. She also took eighth in the all-around at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials. McLaughlin was part of the U.S.’s gold medal team at the 2011 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. That team also included future Gator teammates Bridgette Caquatto and Bridget Sloan. Fassbender was part of the U.S. team which won the 2011 Jesolo City Trophy in Italy.


“This is a strikingly well-balanced class. I don’t find any weaknesses in this group,” Faehn said. “They’ve all reached an extremely high level in the Elite world and have a tremendous amount of competitive experience. These student-athletes bring a wonderful mix of artistry, athleticism and personality. In total, they will contribute to our team immediately and will continue to help our program compete at the highest level.”


Meet the New Gators…

Kennedy Baker - Flower Mound, Texas


Senior International Elite and two-time member of U.S. Senior National Team (2013-14 and 2012-13)…balance beam bronze medalist at 2013 U.S. P&G Championships – also sixth in floor exercise and seventh in all-around and on uneven bars…finished seventh on the uneven bars and eighth in all-around and floor exercise at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials in San Jose, Calif….placed seventh on the uneven bars and eighth in all-around and on the floor exercise at the 2012 Visa Championships…all-around, vault, balance beam and floor exercise champion and runner up on the uneven bars in the 2012 American Classic Senior 2 competition…two-time member of U.S. Junior National Team (2011-12, 2010-11)…third on bars and seventh in all-around at the 2011 Visa Championships - junior division…sixth in 2010 Visa Championships junior division balance beam competition…2009 Visa Championships’ junior division uneven bars champion…trains at the Texas Dreams Club in Coppell, Texas…coached by 1991 World Championships’ all-around gold medalist Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette.


Coach Faehn says…

“Kennedy is a tremendous talent. She is known for her explosive power and has reached a very high level in the Elite world, finishing eighth in the 2012 Olympic Trials’ all-around. She is an extraordinarily strong athlete on all four events. One thing that stands out when she is on the competition floor is her creative and unique floor routines. When that is combined with her dynamic tumbling, the result will be exciting for our fans. She will definitely be set to contribute right away on every event. Kennedy has a high level of competitive experience and remains calm under pressure. She comes from Texas Dreams where she is coached by Kim Zmeskal-Burdette and Chris Burdette. Claire (Boyce), who joined the team this fall, is also from Texas Dreams along with another past Gator, Liz Green. Kim and Chris have always done a tremendous job in preparing their athletes for exceptional, consistent performances and their gymnasts are always ready for the collegiate competitive environment.”


Kennedy Baker says…

“I chose the University of Florida because it's where I felt like I fit in best. I loved the atmosphere and vibe that I felt, it was very positive. I honestly can't wait to be there!”


Ericha Fassbender - Houston, Texas

Tied for third on vault and fifth on balance beam while placing seventh in all-around at the 2013 Junior Olympic Senior A National Championships…has competed as an International Elite…took 15th in 2011 Visa Championships’ junior division all-around…fifth on balance beam at the 2011 CoverGirl Classic (junior division)…part of championship team at the 2011 City of Jesolo Trophy meet in Jesolo, Italy, and also placed sixth on bars and ninth in all-around in junior division competition…member of 2010-11 U.S. Junior National Team…third in junior division balance beam competition and ninth in all-around at the 2010 Visa Championships…won uneven bars, second on floor exercise and fourth in all-around at 2010 Top Gym competition in Charleroi, Belgium…trains at Stars Gymnastics Training Center under Dan and Ashley Baker.


Coach Faehn says…

“Ericha is immensely talented – a former International Elite and really strong on all four events. She has an excellent balance of artistry combined with a high level of skills. Ericha has the talent of making everything she does look easy. She will absolutely step in right away on all four events. She does a nice one and a half Yurchenko vault. On floor, she performs a beautiful pike full-in. She can do almost any trick in the book on beam so she will have plenty of options when putting together her collegiate routine. She has remarkable lines on bars and has several release moves to select from. We are really looking forward to seeing her compete for the Gators. She is coached by Dan and Ashly Baker at Stars Gymnastics in Houston. I have no doubt that Ericha is going to have a great career as a Gator.”


Ericha Fassbender says…

“The first time I visited the Florida campus, I knew that it was where I belonged. I have never met such a group of talented, supportive girls and coaching staff. Instead of treating each other as just teammates, they reach out to one another as family, and that is exactly what I was looking for. I am honored to call myself a Florida Gator.”


Grace McLaughlin – Allen, Texas

U.S. Senior National team member in 2011-12 and a senior International Elite competitor…eighth on the uneven bars at the 2013 Secret U.S. Classic…took 13th in 2012 Visa Championships’ all-around….competed in the 2012 Secret U.S. Classic, taking 11th in the all-around…placed 10th in senior division all-around at the 2011 Visa Championships…eighth on balance beam at the 2011 CoverGirl Classic….2011 American Classic all-around champion - also second on beam, third on the uneven bars and the floor exercise, and tied fifth on vault…part of the U.S.’s 2011 Pan American Games gold-medal team which included current Gators Bridgette Caquatto and Bridget Sloan…third in 2009 Visa Championships’ junior division uneven bars competition…trains at Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics in Orlando under coaches Kelly Pitzen and Brandy Johnson-Scharpf.


Coach Faehn says…

“The first thing that really stood out to us with Grace was her execution. Her routines are incredibly fluid and visually appealing. I also really like her work ethic, her attitude and her character. She has something we look for in all of our recruits – a desire not only to get better, but also to do everything possible to help this team challenge for another SEC and national title. Grace’s strongest event is bars, but she is really solid on all four. She can do a Yurchenko full or a one and a half on vault. She is more of a twister on floor – similar to a Corey (Hartung) or Claire (Boyce), so she will do a lot of twisting and combination tumbling. She’s revamping her beam routine this year and learning new things, which she finds re-energizing. Grace is coached by Brandy Johnson and Kelly Pitzen at Brandy Johnson’s Global Gymnastics in Orlando – a new gym for her and she is excited with the recent transition.”


Grace McLaughlin says…

"I chose UF because the moment I walked on campus, it felt like home. Between the coaches, the team and the school, it felt like it was meant to be. I have never looked back on my decision and I am now a Florida Gator!"


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