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Gators coach Rhonda Faehn, left, and the team celebrate Kytra Hunter's perfect 10 on floor.

Saturday February 1, 2014Gators Take Down No. 1, Look to Maintain Momentum

Gators coach Rhonda Faehn, left, and the team celebrate Kytra Hunter's perfect 10 on floor.

By Michelle Provenzano
GatorZone.com Writing Intern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Hype surrounded No. 2 Florida’s meet with No. 1 Oklahoma in the O’Connell Center Friday night.

After all, these teams have some recent history.

The Gators surpassed the Sooners in last year’s NCAA Championship by a margin of .200 for the title. In their rematch Friday, all eyes were on Florida to see what the Gators could do to keep the bar high.

How's this? The Gators remained unbeaten with four wins under wraps after dropping the Sooners 197.875-197.225 in front of a crowd of 7,260 — the 14th-largest in program history.

“It was a very consistent performance,” Florida coach Rhonda Faehn said. “What I loved about that was we knew this was going to be our toughest challenge so far this year.

“Our athletes responded in a positive and aggressive manner, instead of backing down or being uptight and tense. They just attacked everything, and it was really nice to see.”

Needless to say, the momentum the Gators came into the with meet with -- Kytra Hunter and Bridget Sloan grabbed perfect 10s on the floor against Georgia last week -- fueled Florida against Oklahoma.

How could it not with how loud the crowd got when the Gators’ dynamic duo stepped up for the floor routine and Hunter grabbed her second consecutive 10?

Kytra Hunter

Hunter’s top score has her shattering program records, now the first Gator to get two 10s on the floor and the first Florida gymnast to post perfect scores in consecutive performances since Susan Hines in 1998’s NCAA semifinal and Super Six rounds.

“It’s kind of funny because honestly, everyone’s like, ‘does it feel like you’ve got a 10?’ And I’m like ‘uh, not quite,’ ” Hunter said. “Through the week, I was like ‘uh, I still don’t feel it.’ But today, I definitely felt the 10 I got last week.

“What I feel inside is just so much adrenaline.”

Hunter said floor is her favorite event because she gets to express her personality more than in other events.

The junior’s sassy routine drew the crowd in with every nailed acrobatic flip and every precise movement.

“I block out everything,” Hunter said. “I only hear about five or 10 fans screaming for me. But after my floor routine I heard them going nuts, and that’s the best thing ever.”

Sloan added: “It amazes me how incredible of an athlete she is. Her power, it’s just unheard of. It’s just like, ‘I could tumble under you and I’d still be okay.’ I think that’s what makes her such a strong asset to the team.”

Sloan may not have grabbed another 10 on floor, but she dominated three out of the four events.

The sophomore scored a 9.90 on bars, a 9.95 on beam and a 9.95 on vault for an all-around score of 39.750.

But to Sloan, no matter how precise and focused she may be, there is always that extra something she strives for to make her performances anything but ordinary.

“I am getting closer and closer,” Sloan said about her goal to get a 10 on beam. “That darn side aerial.

“I’m going to have to really work on that. I even turned to Rhonda and knew that was the deciding point. But it just makes me want it even more. I think that’s what kind of keeps me going, is that you just want to get better and better.”

With Sloan and Hunter leading the way, the rest of the Gators are thriving off each competition.

Friday's victory showed how good the Gators are when everyone is performing at a high level. The victory over the No. 1-ranked Sooners mean when the new poll is released, the Gators will take over the top spot.

“They’re very confident in that they know their ability, they know what they’re capable of doing, and they know when they haven’t done that yet,” Faehn said. “That’s what’s great.

"I know they are very confident that we can, if we take one thing at a time, that we can put ourselves in a similar position to last year”

Sloan added that the team's energy the team and its close bond are only going to make them better in competition.

“It really is incredible how close we are and how much we want to get better,” Sloan said. “I think that’s going to be the deciding point for post season. Who is hungry enough to stick that landing? Who is hungry enough to put in that little extra during practice?

"It’s an awesome ride now, and all we gotta do is just maintain it.”

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