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Kytra Hunter, left, and Bridget Sloan celebrate their historic back-to-back perfect 10s.

Saturday January 25, 2014Perfect 10s: Sloan and Hunter Team for Special Moment

Kytra Hunter, left, and Bridget Sloan celebrate their historic back-to-back perfect 10s.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER Senior Writer

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – About the only person in the O’Connell Center not smiling was Kytra Hunter.

Hunter paced back and forth off to the side of the mat where her teammate, Bridget Sloan, had just completed only the third perfect 10 during a floor routine in the history of the Florida gymnastics program.

The crowd of more than 10,000 erupted when the score was posted. Sloan’s teammates rushed to mob her as echoes of the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” – Sloan’s musical choice to accompany her floor routine – still rattled in your ears.

Gators coach Rhonda Faehn did what Coach Bela Karolyi did to her when Faehn scored a 10 on the vault at the 1987 U.S. Championships in Kansas City: she walked Sloan’s way and gave her a hug and a smile.

“When Bridget stopped her last tumbling pass, I knew,’’ Faehn said.

Meanwhile, amidst the electric atmosphere, Hunter continued to pace alone with the eye of the tiger. She could celebrate Sloan’s historic moment later.

There was work to do.

“I just knew I had to do what I do every day in practice,’’ Hunter said.

Hunter was up once a Georgia gymnast finished her turn on beam. She stepped onto the mat while the O’Dome’s speakers came alive.

Finally, a grin splashed across Hunter’s face when she finished her first tumbling pass. She knew. Faehn did, too. Ditto for Sloan.

Hunter was after her perfect 10.

“If I can get a 10, Kytra can get 11,’’ Sloan told Faehn.

Hunter nailed the routine and the scene played out all over again. Only this time, Hunter was part of the celebration.

“It was like an earthquake when we were on the floor,’’ Faehn recalled half an hour later.

In a matter of minutes Sloan and Hunter doubled the number of perfect 10s the Gators had in the program’s first 30-plus years in the floor routine. The last one came in 1997 when Sloan and Hunter still needed their parents to dress them.

What a way to conclude their first home meet since helping the Gators win the program’s first national title last April in Los Angeles.

“I’ve never seen it,’’ Faehn said of back-to-back 10s. “I remember the feeling of getting it. The first thing I did was look to the crowd. Gymnasts love to perform and to do that for everyone in the stands.

“I felt that tonight when Bridget and Kytra did it. I’m so thrilled that they were able to do that tonight and they will always have that memory of what it felt like to be perfect for that one moment.”

Trailing in the running score through three rotations, the Gators saved their best for last in Friday’s 198.050-196.700 victory over the Bulldogs.

Junior Rachel Spicer, competing on the floor this season for the first time since her freshman year, got the party started when she hit a career-best 9.975 during her floor routine after Claire Boyce and Mackenzie Caquatto opened Florida’s turn on floor with strong scores.

Faehn called Spicer’s floor routine the best she had ever seen from blond Texan. Not even close.

“Everyone just caught on fire from there,’’ Faehn said.

Sloan followed Spicer, and Hunter followed Sloan, and then Bridgette Caquatto capped the night with a 9.950 to give Florida a school-record 49.875 team score.

The Gators showed their moxie as a team, but this night belonged to Sloan and Hunter.

Long before the two elite gymnasts signed with the Gators, each enjoyed significant success on the international level. Sloan was the 2009 World Champion and youngest member of the 2008 Olympic Team that competed in Beijing. Hunter was a member of the U.S. National Team and finished fourth at the 2010 Visa Championships.

Hunter arrived at UF first and won the NCAA all-around and vault national titles as a freshman in 2012. Sloan joined the program last year and won the NCAA all-around and balance beam national titles.

They now form the most dynamic duo in college gymnastics.

“Kytra and I have always worked well together,’’ Sloan said. “We feed off each other.”

They are the Gators’ yin and yang. Sloan the extrovert never at a loss for words. Hunter the more reserved, a fearless competitor that seemingly stalks her events.

“I knew if she could show it off, I could show it off,’’ Hunter said.

Both had trouble grasping the significance of their rare back-to-back 10s in the immediate aftermath late Friday night. For now, they need more time.

They will have a reminder soon enough. A large graphic on the wall of the Gators’ gymnastics studio displays all the perfect 10s in school history.

Faehn didn’t need time to grasp what Friday night meant.

“We get to change those graphics,” she said.


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