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Amanda Castillo was one of five Gators to turn in a floor mark of 9.90 or above Friday.

Friday January 19, 2007No. 1 Florida Gymnastics Defeats No. 4 Alabama to Open SEC Season

Gainesville, FL

Amanda Castillo was one of five Gators to turn in a floor mark of 9.90 or above Friday.

The University of Florida gymnastics team (7-0, 1-0 SEC), performing for the first time in front of its home audience as the nation’s No. 1 team, claimed a come-from-behind win over No. 4 Alabama (1-1, 0-1 SEC) Friday evening in front of a Stephen C. O’Connell Center crowd 6,074. Both teams were just off of their 2007 season highs Friday evening, as UF took the win 196.825-195.65.


Heading into the final rotation, the Gators trailed the Tide by .325 – a margin that would be difficult to close. But the Tide ran into trouble on their final event, the balance beam. Each of their final three competitors had a fall in their routines, forcing UA to count two falls toward its beam event total of 48.025. The Gators showed their depth and strength of their floor exercise lineup, using marks of 9.90 or above from their final five competitors to match the second-highest floor team total in school history of 49.525 to take the win.


Although Florida was not forced to count a fall toward its team total Friday night, misses on each of the first three rotations hurt their event scores.  It certainly wasn’t what UF Head Coach Rhonda Faehn was looking for early in the meet, but she liked how the Gators responded to the pressure situation it faced Friday.


“I was just really proud of the team and how they responded to not doing nearly as well as I would’ve wanted on the first two events. This is where they gain experience and learn. It is a chance to just dig in deep and find out exactly what they’re made of,” Faehn said. “Tremendous promise was shown in this competition. It was really wonderful to see that they didn’t get discouraged when we made a few mistakes here or there and that’s the key to where we go from here.”


Friday’s floor performance was the highest number of Gators with a 9.90 or above in a single floor lineup in school history. As strong as those marks appeared, Faehn knows that these Gators could go even higher on floor.


“What’s crazy is that all those 9.9s, they could’ve been 9.95s.  That’s how strong we are. Corey’s (Hartung) could’ve been a 9.95 with one little thing here or there, or Nicola (Willis) here or there,” Faehn said. “It’s just a learning process. We made some mistakes, but we’re capable of much more.”


Sophomore All-American Corey Hartung said the team knew they needed to have a strong performance on their final event to have a chance to take the team title.


“We knew what we had to do in the last event. We always get excited on the floor, and we knew we had to pick it up at the end,” Hartung said. “We did have a little help from Alabama with a couple of falls on beam, but we knew what we had to do as a team. We got pumped and did our best out there on floor.”


A Gator claimed at least a share of four event titles Friday. Junior Ashley Reed matched the Gator season-best mark of 9.90 for the second consecutive week to collect her second straight vault title. A collegiate-best floor mark of 9.925 gave Reed her second floor exercise title of the year. Hartung used a collegiate-best mark of 9.925 to claim her first balance beam title of 2007. Two Gators – Amanda Castillo and Hartung - shared their first collegiate uneven bars title with Alabama‘s Terin Humphrey at 9.90.


The evening’s all-around title was claimed by Alabama freshman Kassi Price at 39.45. Castillo posted a Florida season-best all-around total of 39.40 to take second.


Other Gators among the top three competitors Friday included four Gators sharing second in the final floor standings at 9.90 – Savannah Evans, Castillo, Hartung and Nicola Willis. Castillo shared second on vault at 9.875 with Alabama’s Morgan Dennis. Red-shirt freshman Melanie Sinclair matched her collegiate-best beam mark of 9.85 for the third consecutive week to share third with Alabama’s Brittany Magee.


Tonight’s meet will air tape-delayed Sunday, Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m. on Sun Sports.


Next up, the Gators face another big test when they meet two-time defending NCAA champion and current No. 2 Georgia in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Jan. 27. Meet time is set for 4 p.m. in the Stegeman Coliseum.


No. 1 Florida versus No. 4 Alabama

Stephen C. O’Connell Center (6,074) – Gainesville, Fla. – Jan. 19, 2007























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