Friday February 14, 2014Rachel Spicer: Seeing new potential
By Rachel Whetstone – UF Communications
Before the Gators’ home-opener on Jan. 21 versus Georgia, Rachel Spicer felt that the balance beam was her strongest event. After scoring a collegiate-high 9.975 on the floor exercise that night, she will be approaching the event with a new-found confidence.
Until the first meet of 2014, she hadn’t performed on the floor since her freshman year. An elbow injury held her back during her sophomore season, limiting her contributions to beam. Spicer said she doesn’t think she’s ever received more than a 9.90 on the floor exercise before in her entire life. She said she can’t even describe how it felt after her breakout performance vs. Georgia.
“To get a 10 from one of the judges – I wish I had a picture of my face,” she said. “Everyone said I looked so stunned and shocked, but I was because that’s never happened to me.
“It’s definitely a big eye-opener for me because I said, ‘Wow. I actually have the potential to get scores like Bridget (Sloan) or Kytra (Hunter).’ I’ve never thought of myself in that way at all.”
A junior, the highest score Spicer has ever received as a collegiate was a 9.90, and that was on the beam. Her best score in all three other events was a solid 9.875. After her spectacular floor exercise, Spicer feels like she has momentum. However, she is not focused on topping her scores but on the areas she knows she can improve on.
“I know that I can still go up from here. It’s not a stopping point at all,” she said. “We can always improve in any aspect even if we’re getting a 10.0.”
So Spicer, or Spice as her teammates call her, will continue to work on perfecting her floor routine. And that routine begins and ends with traditions.
“When I walk out to the floor, before it begins, I look to where my parents are sitting in the stands. I don’t think they know that, but I look to them before every routine,” Spicer said.
The Gator chomp, a part of all Florida floor routines, is the very last thing in her routine and is something she enjoys sharing with the crowd.
“You look around and see everyone with their arms open and then bam!” Spicer said. “It is just an amazing feeling.”
After being part of the first-ever Gator gymnastics squad to win a NCAA team title in 2013 and setting collegiate-records this year, Spicer has set her sights on being an All-American in 2014 on the balance beam and the floor.
“Never in a million years would I have thought I could be an All-American on floor, but now I really think I have the potential if I go out and have fun like I have been,” she said. “That would be an awesome honor for me just because I’ve never gotten an All-American award.”
She believes in the team’s potential to win the Southeastern Conference. The Gators won the conference title in both 2012 and 2013. She also believes repeating as national champs is within the team’s reach.
“We can as long as we’re all on the same page, which we are right now, and continually improve,” she said. “It’s a growing process for the entire season.”
Spicer hopes her only superstition, her lucky earrings, will help the team accomplish these goals. Last year they were sparkly diamond studs, and this year they are pearls.
“I start with the same pair every season, and I wear them throughout the whole season,” she said. “Hopefully it’ll bring the same luck as last year.”